SINGAPORE - A dentist who came up with a bogus claims scam involving his patients' Medisave accounts was sentenced to 2½ years' jail on Friday (Aug 10).
Steven Ang Kiam Hau, 44, admitted in a district court that he had duped the Central Provident Fund Board into disbursing $434,241 from 14 patients' Medisave accounts to The Smile Division Surgeons @ Orchard, the clinic where he worked.
As part of the ruse, Ang 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.
The managing director of the clinic allegedly discovered Ang's ruse and decided to offer the scheme to other patients. The offences took place between 2011 and 2013 before the plot was discovered.
On May 4, Ang pleaded guilty to 30 cheating charges involving five patients and $65,858. Another 253 charges involving the remaining amount were taken into consideration during sentencing.
District Judge Kan Shuk Weng said on Friday that Ang had committed a grave offence involving a public institution and had abused the trust placed in him.
However, she added: “There was no suggestion of coersion nor that the accused had recommended expensive treatment for the patients that were not necessary. The patients had to sign multiple blank forms, which should have put them on notice as to what was being done.”
The judge also noted that Ang had made full restitution with interest and appeared genuinely remorseful.
Ang joined the clinic in 2007 and came up with the scheme two years later.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Guan Siew said that for dental implants, Ang "would submit, on behalf of the patient, multiple Medisave claims based on fictitious surgery dates on which no surgery was in fact carried out, so as to circumvent the withdrawal limits".
The DPP also said Ang's share of the net fees was 56 per cent while the group was entitled to the rest.
The dental group's managing director Cecil Goh Chin Chye, 48, found out about the scheme in 2011 and saw it as a way to attract more patients, the court heard.
Goh and Ang agreed that the scheme should continue at the Lucky Plaza clinic. Goh also allegedly decided to implement the scheme at other Smile clinics.
The offences came to light after the MOH made a police report on July 14, 2014, following an audit.
DPP Teo said Ang had paid more than $535,000 to the CPF Board on Dec 21 last year, which included the initial amount plus 4 per cent interest per annum. This was later disbursed to the patients' Medisave accounts.
However, the prosecution said that no weight should be given to his restitution as they felt it was a tactical manoeuvre to obtain a lighter sentence and is not indicative of his remorse.
On Friday, Ang's lawyer, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, asked the court for a deferment in sentence, adding that his client needs time to take advice on the matter.
Ang is now out on $250,000 bail. If he decides not to appeal against the sentence, he will surrender himself at the State Courts on Aug 17 to begin his jail term.
He had been suspended for a year from May 11 for submitting the false Medisave claims.
The Singapore Dental Council had said this was the first case "involving deception to obtain unauthorised Medisave withdrawals".
Besides Goh, the clinic's practice manager Yeo Meow Koon, 47, and dentist Daniel Liew Yaoxiang, 36, are also accused of conspiring with Ang to cheat patients. Their cases are still pending.
The Straits Times understands that the clinic was taken over by new management in 2015 and has been rebranded as TSD Dental Group. They are different entities.