Jail for ex-insurance agent who made off with more than $190k of clients' monies

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

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

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

Poh, who was a Great Eastern Life financial representative and is no longer with the firm, committed the offences between 2007 and 2012.

The 53-year-old man was sentenced to two years and 10 months' jail on Tuesday (April 30), 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 items such as payment of premiums.

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

In April 2012, he introduced her to a new insurance policy that had a premium of $50,000 and she agreed to apply for it.

She transferred the money to him but instead of using it for its intended purpose, he misappropriated the entire sum.

Two months later, Madam Tan asked Poh for documents relating to this policy and he admitted that he had pocketed the money for his personal use. 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 that the cheque was invalid as the bank account linked to it had been closed. However, he still used it as a ploy to stall for time.

On Sept 14, 2012, Madam Tan found out that the cheque had bounced after she attempted to bank it and she could not contact Poh. She lodged a police report the next day. She also alerted the insurance firm, the court heard.

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

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

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, Great Eastern said that it has reached a resolution with the affected customers.

Its spokesman added: "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.

"We are constantly strengthening our processes to ensure that our customers' interests are protected at all times."

For each count of criminal breach of trust as an agent, Poh could have been jailed for up to 20 years and fined.

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