20 weeks' jail for ex-research fellow who cheated NUS of over $39,000

Thomas Teh Kok Hiong, 42, who is no longer with NUS, was on Monday (July 25) sentenced to 20 weeks' jail. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A research fellow at National University of Singapore (NUS) cheated the school of more than $39,000 and used it to buy items such as a radio and equipment for his car.

Thomas Teh Kok Hiong, 42, who is no longer with NUS, was on Monday (July 25) sentenced to 20 weeks' jail.

Teh, who used to be from NUS' Department of Biomedical Engineering, pleaded guilty last month to five cheating charges and two counts of forgery.

Eighteen other charges were considered during sentencing.

He has since made full restitution.

In earlier proceedings, the court heard that Teh submitted 22 claims to NUS to fraudulently receive some $39,500 between 2010 and 2018.

Investigations revealed that he gave false and inflated claims, as well as those for expenses he did not incur, such as purchases made by his family.

Such claims are made to NUS through an electronic system, which requires staff to enter details of their expense and supporting documents like invoices or receipts.

The entries are run past administrative staff before the money is disbursed.

Deputy Public Prosecutor V. Jesudevan told the court that the staff members did not conduct any physical checks to verify if the goods had been delivered and trusted that the claims were genuine.

He added: "To avoid detection and create legitimacy to these false claims, (Teh) altered receipts and invoices."

It turned out that the expenses that he claimed for consumables for projects were either made up or were for his personal purchases.

Among other things, in 2017, he paid $300 to install solar film on his car.

Similarly, he forged a document to make a $4,815 claim - 16 times higher - for "UV protective film for lab hood and cabinets".

In 2018, Teh submitted a false claim of $2,820 for a motor and other equipment.

This was untrue because he bought a label printer and a radio for his own use, which cost around $1,000.

He then forged a document to support his expense claim to cheat NUS into disbursing him $2,820.

In an unrelated case, former NUS professor Tan Kok Kiong, 54, was charged in January last year with multiple counts of forgery and cheating.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said in an earlier statement that he allegedly submitted fraudulent claims totalling more than $100,000 to NUS between 2012 and 2019.

CPIB added: "He is alleged to have generated fictitious invoices for the purported purchase of products and services and submitted claims that were either inflated or for expenses that were unrelated to his research grant.

"By doing so, he is alleged to have cheated NUS' approving officers into disbursing those sums of money to him."

The cases involving Tan, who used to be from NUS' Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, are still pending.

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