Keppel Club scam: 12 years' jail for mastermind

Setho Oi Lin duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million in total for fake Keppel Club memberships over 10 years from 2004 to 2014. She pocketed at least $10.5 million from the offences.
Setho Oi Lin duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million in total for fake Keppel Club memberships over 10 years from 2004 to 2014. She pocketed at least $10.5 million from the offences.

Judge points to 71-year-old's 'flagrant and methodical disregard of the law' in sentencing

The mastermind behind the Keppel Club membership scam was sentenced to 12 years' jail yesterday, bringing to a close a case that had rocked one of Singapore's oldest country clubs.

The sentence was in line with the jail term of 12 to 13 years that the prosecution had sought.

Setho Oi Lin had duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million in total for fake memberships over 10 years from 2004 to 2014.

The 71-year-old, also known as Setho Irene, received at least $10.5 million from the offences, investigations found. She pleaded guilty to 60 counts of cheating on Dec 4 last year. She was granted bail of $300,000 so that she could go for a medical appointment and will start her jail term only on May 7.

Deputy presiding judge Jennifer Marie pointed out Setho's "flagrant and methodical disregard of the law".

"(She) chose to embark on a life of crime in her late 50s and masterminded a scheme using the trust her employers - the same employers she had worked for for over 40 years - instilled in her," she said.

Setho, who partnered former membership department supervisor Nah Hak Chuah and club member Ivy Cheo Soh Chin to sell fake memberships, was also called out by the judge for having "exploited personal and professional relationships".

CLEAR MESSAGE

While it is unfortunate that (Setho) will spend her twilight years in prison... the message from the court must be clear and unequivocal.

DEPUTY PRESIDING JUDGE JENNIFER MARIE

Judge Marie said Setho "brought together a complicit group of individuals with the ultimate aim of benefiting herself".

On Monday last week, the court heard that Setho had reached a settlement to pay the club $3.65 million in restitution. The prosecution, which originally sought at least 15 years' jail, decided to ask for a lighter sentence as a result.

Setho's lawyers Philip Fong and Lynn Wong had pleaded for a jail term of seven years in the light of her age and health.

They submitted medical reports which stated that Setho suffers from severe spinal problems and needs help with her daily tasks, on top of conditions including diabetes and hypertension.

The reports said she would not survive a 10-year jail term.

Judge Marie added: "While it is unfortunate that (Setho) will spend her twilight years in prison... the message from the court must be clear and unequivocal."

Setho, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, started working at Keppel Club in 1966 as a general clerk and rose through the ranks to be a personal assistant to the general manager.

As part of the scam, she would tell prospective buyers that there were club memberships for transfer.

Instead of paying the club directly, the buyers were asked to make payments to third parties, including Cheo. Nah made false entries in the club's electronic database to enable non-existent memberships to be sold. This enabled the buyers or their nominees to enter the club and use its facilities.

Nah and Cheo, both 67, admitted to their roles in the scam on Nov 30 last year. Both were jailed on Jan 10 for three years and 4½ years respectively.

For Setho, another 3,121 charges were considered during sentencing - 1,281 counts of cheating, 1,339 counts of abetting false entries into the membership database, and 501 counts of dealing with the benefits of criminal conduct.

When asked about the steps it would take to prevent a similar incident, Keppel Club said: "As advised by our lawyers, we regret that we are unable to reply to your questions on the fraud case."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2018, with the headline 'Keppel Club scam: 12 years' jail for mastermind'. Print Edition | Subscribe