SINGAPORE - A dentist took part in a bogus claims scam that reaped $388,700 from the Medisave accounts of 13 patients.
The fraud, which involved duping the Central Provident Fund Board into dispensing the funds, left most of the patients with no money in their accounts, a court heard on Monday (April 15).
Daniel Liew Yaoxiang, who used to work for The Smile Division Dental Group, pleaded guilty to 28 cheating charges and two counts of forgery. A further 250 other counts for similar offences will be considered during sentencing.
Liew, who committed the offences between 2011 and 2014, was the second person to be convicted for taking part in the scam.
Steven Ang Kiam Hau, 44, the dentist who had devised the scheme, was jailed for 2½ years on Aug 10 last year.
The cases involving their alleged accomplices - dentist Cecil Goh Chin Chye, 48, who was the dental group’s managing director, and Yeo Meow Koon, 47 - are still pending.
Liew, 37, joined for The Smile Division Dental Group as an associate dentist in 2011 and worked at its clinics in Hougang, Choa Chu Kang as well as Clementi.
He resigned three years later and the Singapore Dental Council website shows that he is now working at a clinic in Aljunied.
Ang first hatched the plan in 2009 and implemented it at a Lucky Plaza clinic where he worked.
According to earlier reports in The Straits Times, he would offer less well-off patients lower rates for day surgeries than those charged by other clinics.
He would certify that the procedures were performed on the patients on multiple dates, even though they were all done on a single day or, at most, two days.
This was to circumvent the daily withdrawal limits set by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and receive multiple claim amounts from the patients’ Medisave accounts.
Court documents stated that Goh found out about Ang’s ruse and decided to offer the scheme to other patients.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Guan Siew said: “When Liew joined... he became aware of the scheme, and participated in it. He knew that he would benefit from the scheme as patients were more likely to choose dental implant treatment, as opposed to alternatives like dentures, if they did not have to fork out large amounts of cash for the former.”
The court heard that from the fees collected from each patient, the company would first deduct and retain the costs for items such as anaesthesia, medication and laboratory fees. Liew would then receive 50 per cent of the remainder as his profit.
Senior Counsel (SC) Sant Singh, who represents Liew, told the court on Monday: “Treatment was actually provided for the patients... This was not a case where fictitious amounts were being claimed for services that were not performed.”
The offences came to light after the MOH made a police report on July 14, 2014, following an audit.
Liew made a restitution of more than $470,000 on Dec 21, 2017. This amount was made up of the principal sum of $388,700 plus an interest of 4 per cent per annum amounting to more than $81,000.
On Monday, the DPP urged District Judge Kan Shuk Weng to sentence the dentist to between 30 and 36 months’ jail, stressing that he had “undermined Singapore’s healthcare policy”.
SC Singh pleaded for his client to be sentenced to 15 months’ jail. He also said Liew was a former national swimmer who represented Singapore at events, including the 2000 Summer Olympics.
SC Singh said the ruse was Ang’s “brainchild” which was then “franchised” by Goh. He added: “Dr Liew became a cog in the scheme of things.”
Liew is now out on bail of $600,000 and is expected to be sentenced on May 3.
Those convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.