Ex-insurance agent who pocketed $190k from clients gets jail

An insurance agent preyed on 32 of his clients and made off with more than $190,000.

Most of Poh Kim Chuan's victims were illiterate senior citizens who had trusted him to handle all matters related to their insurance policies.

Poh, who was working with Great Eastern Life at the time, committed the offences between 2007 and 2012.

The 53-year-old was sentenced to two years and 10 months' jail yesterday after pleading guilty to 13 counts of criminal breach of trust and a cheating charge. Forty-two other similar charges were considered during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Vadivalagan Shanmuga said Poh became a Great Eastern insurance agent in 1992 and built longstanding relationships with his clients.

But he later misappropriated their monies meant for purposes such as the payment of premiums.

He misappropriated the largest amount of $50,000 from Madam Tan Poh Yur, 53.

In April 2012, he introduced her to an insurance policy that had a premium of $50,000 and she agreed to apply for it. She transferred him the money, but he misappropriated the entire sum.

Two months later, when Madam Tan asked Poh for documents relating to the policy, he admitted he had pocketed the money.

He asked her to give him time to make a repayment and she agreed.

In September that year, he handed her a cheque for $50,000.

DPP Vadivalagan told District Judge Christopher Tan that Poh knew the cheque was invalid as the bank account linked to it had been closed, but he still used it as a ploy to stall for time.

On Sept 14, 2012, Madam Tan found out the cheque had bounced, but could not contact Poh. She lodged a police report the next day and alerted the insurance firm.

The DPP said: "Great Eastern cooperated with the police to identify the number of clients affected and advised those affected to lodge police reports. On Aug 16, 2013, the accused's agency agreement with Great Eastern was terminated officially."

He added that Poh had made a minimal restitution of $850 to date.

Great Eastern told The Straits Times that it has reached a resolution with the affected customers.

"We take a very serious view of any misconduct by any of our financial representative and will not hesitate to take stern action against errant representatives," said a spokesman. "We are constantly strengthening our processes to ensure our customers' interests are protected at all times."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-insurance agent who pocketed $190k from clients gets jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe