SINGAPORE - The mastermind behind the Keppel Club membership scam was sentenced to 12 years' jail on Monday (March 26), in line with the jail term of 12 to 13 years that the prosecution had sought.
Setho Oi Lin, who was a personal assistant to the club's general manager, duped 1,341 people into paying about $37.5 million in total for fake memberships over a span of 10 years from 2004 to 2014.
The 71-year-old, also known as Setho Irene, received at least $10.5 million from the cheating offences, investigations found. She pleaded guilty to 60 counts of cheating on Dec 4 last year.
She was granted bail of $300,000 for her to go for a medical appointment and will start her jail term only on May 7.
In delivering the sentence, 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,” said the judge.
She added: “While it is unfortunate that (Setho) will spend her twilight years in prison... the message from the court must be clear and unequivocal.”
Last Monday, the court heard that Setho had reached a settlement to pay the club $3.65 million in restitution. The prosecution, who 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 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.
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 there were club memberships available for transfer.
Instead of paying the club directly, the buyers were asked to make payments to third parties, including Setho's friend. A supervisor at the membership department would enter these buyers' names into the database and issue them with membership cards.
Her 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 on the same day after pleading guilty to 20 of 303 counts of money laundering.
The buyers or their nominees could enter the club and use its facilities as they were issued with membership cards and their details had been entered into the system.
When asked about the steps it would take to prevent a similar incident, Keppel Club told The Straits Times: "As advised by our lawyers, we regret that we are unable to reply to your questions on the fraud case."
Another 3,121 charges against Setho were considered during sentencing.
These are for an additional 1,281 counts of cheating, 1,339 counts of abetting false entries into the club's electronic membership database, and 501 counts of dealing with the benefits of her criminal conduct.
Offenders convicted of cheating can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined for each charge.