Man who used scanned copies of others' NRICs to redeem face masks jailed and fined

Emerson Goh Shou En arriving at State Courts, on May 10, 2021.
Emerson Goh Shou En arriving at State Courts, on May 10, 2021.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A man was sentenced to seven months and six weeks' jail and fined $3,000 on Monday (May 10) for using other individuals' NRICs to redeem over 200 face masks from vending machines last year.

Emerson Goh Shou En, 32, had obtained the scanned copies of persons' identity cards during his previous job as a recruiter between 2013 and 2020.

He used them to redeem 207 Government-issued face masks from the vending machines at Changi Simei Community Club (CC) on three occasions between May 26 and 27 last year.

He did this after he redeemed a mask from a vending machine on May 26 by scanning the barcode on his NRIC and realised no further verification was needed.

The masks were valued at about $2,000 in total.

Goh pleaded guilty to one count each of retaining illegally-obtained personal information, cheating and breaching circuit breaker measures.

Two other charges for breaching circuit breaker measures were taken into consideration by District Judge Ow Yong Tuck Leong.

The court heard that Goh, as a recruiter, would receive resumes from applicants, along with a scanned copy of their NRIC.

He kept scanned NRIC copies of 384 individuals in his mobile phone, court documents state.

Goh concealed the fact that he would be retaining and utilising the scanned NRIC copies for "purposes beyond the job application process".

The court heard that six police reports were made between May 30 and June 3 by people who claimed that they were unable to collect face masks as redemption had already been made at Changi Simei CC.

A police report was also made by the CC's constituency director about an unidentified man who had been captured on closed-circuit television camera collecting at least 30 face masks from vending machines there.

Urging the court to jail Goh for at least seven months and six weeks and fine him $3,000, Deputy Public Prosecutor Yeow Xuan said he had capitalised on the streamlined mask redemption process by abusing the absence of additional identity verification requirements.

Goh had abused his position of trust as a recruiter, she added.

"Importantly, these face masks were meant for other Singapore citizens seeking to protect themselves and their loved ones from the Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

"A deterrent sentence is therefore warranted to deter like-minded persons who may be emboldened to exploit future government distribution exercises that are digitised for the convenience of the community."

Goh's lawyer, Mr Riko Isaac, said in mitigation that his client had taken the masks for his own benefit and had not intended to sell them.

As Goh had intended to use each mask only once, he had taken a large number of them, added the lawyer.

He asked for a maximum of five months and two weeks, and a fine of $1,000 for his client instead.

Goh's jail term has been deferred to May 17 so that he can settle his personal affairs.

For his offence of cheating, Goh could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

For his offence of retaining illegally obtained personal information, he could have been jailed for up to three years, fined up to $10,000, or both.