Jail for trio who duped Spring Singapore of nearly $140k

Mary Heah Hwee Hoong, 42, was sentenced to 20 months' jail for offences involving $45,000. Wong Ping Ling, 45, was sentenced to 18 months' jail for offences involving nearly $35,000. Lionel Wong, 36, was sentenced to 22 months' jail for offences invo
Lionel Wong, 36, was sentenced to 22 months' jail for offences involving $60,000. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Mary Heah Hwee Hoong, 42, was sentenced to 20 months' jail for offences involving $45,000. Wong Ping Ling, 45, was sentenced to 18 months' jail for offences involving nearly $35,000. Lionel Wong, 36, was sentenced to 22 months' jail for offences invo
Mary Heah Hwee Hoong, 42, was sentenced to 20 months' jail for offences involving $45,000. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW
Mary Heah Hwee Hoong, 42, was sentenced to 20 months' jail for offences involving $45,000. Wong Ping Ling, 45, was sentenced to 18 months' jail for offences involving nearly $35,000. Lionel Wong, 36, was sentenced to 22 months' jail for offences invo
Wong Ping Ling, 45, was sentenced to 18 months' jail for offences involving nearly $35,000. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Three people collaborated with a former senior executive of Spring Singapore to dupe the agency into disbursing a total of nearly $140,000 in public funds.

Lionel Wong Yong Jun, Mary Heah Hwee Hoong and Wong Ping Ling conspired several times with Leong Weng Cheou, 46, to defraud the organisation with bogus claims.

Lionel Wong's case involved $60,000. The offences linked to Heah and Wong Ping Ling involved $45,000 and nearly $35,000 respectively.

A district court heard that they took half the amount linked to them, while Leong received the remainder.

Yesterday, Lionel Wong, 36, was sentenced to 22 months' jail while Heah, 42, was ordered to spend 20 months behind bars. District Judge Eddy Tham sentenced Wong Ping Ling, 45, to 18 months' jail. Each of them pleaded guilty to multiple counts of cheating and forgery.

A fifth offender linked to the ruse, Soh Eng Luan, 38, had earlier been sentenced to 10 months' jail. Leong, who was the mastermind of the scam, was jailed for four years in March last year. All five offenders are Singaporeans.

Spring Singapore has since been merged with International Enterprise Singapore, and the new agency is known as Enterprise Singapore.

The court heard that Leong's duties at Spring Singapore included assessing applications and claims for the Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) scheme.

The vouchers, each worth $5,000, were given to small and medium-sized enterprises to develop their capabilities. The ICV scheme operated on a reimbursement basis.

Applications were submitted online to obtain Spring Singapore's approval to buy an item or service from a solution provider.

Each application had to be accompanied by documents, including a quotation from the solution provider. When approved, the applicant could make the purchase before submitting a claim to Spring Singapore for the funds.

Each claim had to be accompanied by an invoice and proof of payment, and money was disbursed after Spring Singapore approved the claims.

In 2015, Leong decided to defraud the agency by using false documents for it to disburse money to shell business entities. His four accomplices agreed to take part in the scam the following year.

In late 2017, Leong talked to them about returning the cash, as he knew Spring Singapore's auditing processes would uncover the ruse. Soh then made a police report, admitting her role in the ruse.

All five have since made full restitution.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2020, with the headline Jail for trio who duped Spring Singapore of nearly $140k. Subscribe