SINGAPORE - The prosecution is seeking a jail term of 12 to 13 years for the mastermind behind the Keppel Club membership scam, who last Friday (March 16) reached a full and final settlement to pay the club $3.65 million in restitution.
Setho Oi Lin, 71, who was a personal assistant to the club's general manager, received at least $10.5 million from the cheating offences that spanned 10 years, investigations found.
In total, between June 1, 2004, and Aug 1, 2014, Setho, who is also known as Setho Irene, duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million for fake memberships.
In the light of the restitution settlement reached last Friday, the prosecution on Monday sought a lower jail term for Setho.
Originally seeking a sentence of at least 15 years, Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi said the “sheer magnitude of the crime” and the “high level of premeditation” justified the lengthy jail time.
He said: “There was a colossal amount of money paid out wrongfully to the wrong person.”
He said Setho took careful steps to ensure that her scheme could be kept running for 10 years and that she abused her position in the club for personal gain.
DPP Hon also said Setho likely gained much more than the $10.5 million that she has been proven to receive, on account of the number of charges that could not be quantified.
Meanwhile, Setho's lawyers Philip Fong and Lynn Wong are seeking a term of seven years' jail for Setho on the basis of her restitution settlement, as well as her advanced age and ill health.
According to medical reports submitted by her lawyers, Setho suffers from severe spinal problems that render her in need of assistance with daily living tasks.
Setho needs to sit for showers and is advised to walk with an assistive device, said the reports. She also suffers from several chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
The medical reports estimated that Setho would have a 0 per cent chance of surviving a 10-year jail term. Her lawyers argued that as a result, a sentence surpassing that would be a crushing one.
Mr Fong said: “Any sentence more than 10 years, there is the risk that she will die in prison.”
On Dec 4 last year, Setho pleaded guilty to 60 counts of cheating.
As part of the scam, Setho would tell prospective buyers that there were club memberships available for transfer.
Instead of paying the club directly, the buyers were instructed to make payments to third parties, including Setho's friend, and this accomplice's family members.
A supervisor at the membership department would enter these buyers' names into the database and issue them with membership cards.
Setho's two accomplices, former membership department supervisor Nah Hak Chuah and club member Ivy Cheo Soh Chin, both 67, admitted to their roles in the scam on Nov 30 last year.
Nah, who admitted to 30 of 1,280 charges of making false entries in the club's electronic membership database, was sentenced to three years' jail on Jan 10.
Cheo, who was Setho's friend, was jailed for 4½ years that day after pleading guilty to 20 of 303 counts of money laundering.
According to the charges Setho pleaded guilty to, the buyers paid between $26,500 and $41,500 each.
The buyers were directed to pay the purchase prices and transfer fees to third parties, including Cheo, her daughter, mother and brother-in-law. Cheo's three family members were not club members.
DPP Hon earlier said Setho worked at Keppel Club for nearly 48 years from 1966.
Setho started off as a general clerk and was promoted through the ranks.
The general manager, who oversaw membership matters, lodged a police report on Aug 13, 2014. He told the police that Setho had conned new members of Keppel Club into buying club memberships from "phantom buyers" and directed them to pay the fees to third parties. As of that month, the club had 2,682 legitimate members.
Offenders convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.
Setho's case has been adjourned to March 26 for sentencing.