Man gets jail over his role in cheating WDA and Spring Singapore

SINGAPORE - A man on Thursday (Nov 11) was the sixth person to be sentenced to jail over a cashback scam involving SkillsFuture credits.

He was also involved in a second ruse linked to a government scheme to help small and medium-sized enterprises upgrade their business capabilities.

Sng Kee Jin, 29, was sentenced to 44 weeks' jail over his role in the scams that caused Spring Singapore and the now-defunct Workforce Development Agency (WDA) to suffer losses of more than $60,000 in total.

The scams involved inflated claims to the agencies.

Sng pleaded guilty on Thursday to nine charges of engaging in a conspiracy to cheat them.

Of the total losses to WDA - now known as SkillsFuture Singapore - $20,000 was attributable to the claims linked to Sng.

Spring Singapore suffered another $10,000 in losses arising from the Singaporean's charges. Sng has since given a total of $6,000 in restitution to the two agencies.

Five other men linked to the ruses have been dealt with in court and were earlier given jail sentences.

They are: Lim Biao, Chia Bing Lun, Tay Sheng Yang, Ng Yong Jing and Muhammad Hakimmul Hisham Razni. The men were then aged between 27 and 35.

The case involving a seventh man, Joshua Tan Jun Liang, 30, is pending.

All seven men are allegedly linked to the scam involving SkillsFuture credits. According to court documents, Tan, Sng and Chia are involved in cheating Spring Singapore.

The SkillsFuture Credits (SFC) scheme was launched in January 2016 to encourage individuals to take ownership of their skills development and lifelong learning.

It gave all Singaporeans aged 25 and older an opening credit of $500 in their SFC accounts, which could be used to pay for approved courses.

Between February and March 2016, the WDA approved funding under the SFC scheme for four courses conducted by two companies - A.I. Industries and Alliance Continens.

Tay was a director at both firms while Ng was the sole trainer at the companies.

Training providers under the scheme were not allowed to pay trainees from the disbursed funds or enter into such agreements.

Despite this, Tay and Ng discussed an idea some time in early 2016 to boost sales by paying people who referred trainees to register for the courses.

Tay then spoke to Lim and they also talked about giving cash directly to trainees to increase sales.

In April 2016, a company known as C.G. Marketing (CGM) was formed with the sole purpose of promoting courses offered by A.I. Industries and Alliance Continens.

Lim was CGM's sole registered director and was paid a fee for his role.

According to court documents, he worked with Tan to recruit their friends to sign up for courses by giving cashbacks.

Some time in mid-April 2016, Chia recruited Sng, also known as "Nicholas", as a salesman for CGM.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Thiagesh Sukumaran said: "As a salesperson, Nicholas would get people to sign up for courses offered by A.I. Industries. Nicholas guided trainees to file SFC claims on the same day that they signed on the course registration forms.

"He would also facilitate the (trainees' submissions of SFC claims) on the WDA online portal... Additionally, Nicholas would tell trainees that their attendance was optional."

To entice people to sign up for A.I. Industries courses, Sng also gave trainees a cashback of at least $50 for every course that they signed up for.

As a result, WDA was induced into delivering $250 to A.I. Industries for each claim made.

On June 1, 2016, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) received a complaint from the WDA against A.I. Industries and Alliance Continens.

The WDA removed the two companies' courses from the SFC course directory a week later.

Separately, the offences linked to Spring Singapore involved the Innovation and Capability Voucher (ICV) initiative.

This scheme provided funding of $5,000 to SMEs that buy solutions - with Spring Singapore's approval - to upgrade their business capabilities in areas such as innovation and productivity.

Chia worked as a salesman for Zenith Infosystems, which had a partnership with another company, Webstar, that sold a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

The court heard than Tan, who operated Zenith Infosystems, devised a scheme where resellers and sales staff paid applicants to buy their products.

Zenith sales staff then scouted for potential applicants and offered them cashback to buy the CRM system for their firms.

Some time in 2016, Sng started working as a Zenith salesman and worked directly under Tan.

Sng then recruited two people as applicants and offered them cash to buy the CRM system from Webstar.

The company applied for ICV grants and Spring Singapore was then duped into disbursing $10,000 in total.

Spring Singapore later informed the CAD in December 2016 about the bogus ICV claims.

For each count of cheating, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

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