Ex-director of defunct childcare centre chain fined $10,500 for govt subsidy scam

Josephine Tan Poh Choo pleaded guilty to three cheating-related charges involving $3,000.
Josephine Tan Poh Choo pleaded guilty to three cheating-related charges involving $3,000.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Using fraudulent claims, a then director of a now-defunct chain of childcare centres conspired with two employees to dupe the authorities into disbursing almost $5,000 in childcare subsidies.

The subsidy claims, submitted to the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), were for children who did not or had yet to attend the centres.

Josephine Tan Poh Choo, who was also the shareholder of the Faith Educare childcare centres, was fined $10,500 on Tuesday (July 6).

The 53-year-old turned up in court in a wheelchair and pleaded guilty to three cheating-related charges involving $3,000.

Five other similar charges, relating to the remaining amount issued, were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Court documents state that Tan and her accomplices, Arulanandam Rajeswary, 53, and Fatimah Bivee Mohd Shariff, 43, submitted the false claims on multiple occasions in 2016.

The two employees were principals at several of the centres at the time of the offences. Rajeswary was also responsible for submitting childcare subsidy claims on behalf of all the centres.

Sometime in 2015 or January 2016, Tan instructed Rajeswary to submit basic childcare subsidy claims to the ECDA for children who did not or had yet to attend the centres.

Rajeswary was to use information previously obtained in forms submitted to the childcare centres by parents seeking to apply for the subsidies.

She was also to "confirm" the children's attendance in the ECDA's Childcare Link System, where the subsidy claims are submitted.

Fatimah would sign "on behalf" of the parents in the "sign-in and sign-out" records that the child was purportedly there.

Court documents state that $4,800 was disbursed by the ECDA as a result of the false claims by the trio. Rajeswary and Fatimah did not directly benefit from the conspiracy to cheat the agency.

The ECDA made a police report on Aug 31, 2016.

On Tuesday, the court heard that Tan had made full restitution of the amount that was wrongfully disbursed.

She sold the childcare centres in December 2019, and is currently unemployed.

The court heard that Tan is unable to walk independently after suffering a stroke in May 2018. She was also diagnosed with dementia resulting from the stroke, leading to memory impairment, in June 2020.

Fatimah was fined $3,000 on July 1 this year for her involvement in the offences, while Rajeswary's case is pending.

For each of her cheating offences, Tan could have been jailed for up to three years, or fined, or both.