SINGAPORE - An automotive consultant, who was facing financial woes, hatched an elaborate plan to buy insurance policies for his mother and then fake her death to obtain payouts and Central Provident Fund withdrawals totalling several million dollars.
Abraham Rock, 36, "carried out online research on which insurance policies gave the highest payouts upon the death of the insured and the requisite documents for making a claim", according to court documents.
He bought insurance policies and travel insurance for his mother Talat Farman, 54, between July 2017 and April last year.
They then went to Pakistan in June last year where he obtained forged documents falsely stating that she was killed in a traffic accident there.
A district court heard that he made claims totalling more than $3.7 million. Out of this amount, CPF and NTUC Income Cooperative paid out around $130,000 in total.
Abraham was sentenced on Thursday (Sept 26) to three years and 10 months' jail after he pleaded guilty to three counts of cheating.
He also admitted to one count each of giving false information to a public servant and fabricating false evidence so that it was used in a judicial proceeding.
District Judge Christopher Tan sentenced Talat, 54, to 13 months' jail after she pleaded guilty to two cheating charges.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin said that Abraham was facing financial difficulties in 2017 when he came up with the ruse.
He "kept a spreadsheet detailing Talat's insurance policies and the potential payouts to be obtained from Talat's purported death", added the DPP.
Abraham also discussed the plan with his uncle in Pakistan, Mr Sheikh Muhammad Kamran, who agreed to help by checking with his contacts on whether they could provide fake documents to certify Talat's purported death.
Abraham's two cousins in Pakistan, Mr Abdul Rahman Sheikh Muhammad Kamran and Mr Sheikh Jawad Ahmed Raza, helped to convey messages between Abraham and his uncle to facilitate the procurement of the fake documents. These three men are still at large.
After Abraham's mother agreed to be part of the scam, they travelled to Islamabad on June 29 last year.
Abraham told his mother the following month that he managed to obtain the necessary forged documents. She gave him her NRIC and passport before he returned to Singapore alone.
In Singapore, Abraham reported her "death" to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.
He then submitted claims to the CPF board as well as AXA Insurance, MSIG Insurance, Great Eastern Life Assurance and NTUC Income Cooperative.
Abraham also engaged a lawyer to assist in matters pertaining to Talat's "death".
On Nov 19 last year, Abraham affirmed an affidavit before a Commissioner of Oaths, stating that his mother died on July 5 that year. The affidavit was then filed with the Family Justice Courts of Singapore.
DPP Chin said: "When AXA and MSIG received the insurance claims, they hired surveyors to authenticate the claims after discovering irregularities in the documents submitted. It was then discovered that the accused also made similar death benefit insurance claims with other insurers.
"When the surveyors asked (Abraham) for the burial address of Talat, (he) gave them the address of his grandmother's tomb."
After more discrepancies were uncovered, AXA alerted the police on Nov 13 last year.
Subsequent investigations revealed that Talat is still alive and living in Pakistan. Arrangements were then made for her to return to Singapore on Nov 29.
Abraham has made no restitution.
On Thursday, defence lawyer Trent Ng urged Judge Tan to sentence Talat to a maximum of six months' jail, stressing that she had played "an entirely passive role".
He added that she is "a simple-minded elderly lady who... is illiterate, had no formal education and is hard of hearing in both ears."
Mr Ng also pleaded for Abraham to be sentenced to up to two years and two months' jail.
"The accused is genuinely remorseful for his acts and accepts that he should have been more thoughtful and discerning in his choices," he added.
Before handing down the sentences, Judge Tan said that the offences had a "transnational element" and investigations into the case had been difficult.
For each count of cheating, offenders can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.