Police team commended for role in curtailing cheating cases

Superintendent Aileen Yap (fourth from left), and her core team that led the investigation in Jover Chew's case.
Superintendent Aileen Yap (fourth from left), and her core team that led the investigation in Jover Chew's case.PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Ever since Jover Chew and his four associates were jailed in November last year for cheating customers at their Sim Lim Square store - Air Mobile - the police have not seen any more cheating cases in Sim Lim Square, Lucky Plaza or People's Park Complex.

These three commercial buildings were former hotspots for complaints of unfair business practices.

Led by Superintendent Aileen Yap, 38, a team of 22 investigating officers from the Central Division looked into over 100 police reports filed against Air Mobile in 2014.

They worked closely with lawyers from the Attorney-General's Chambers to bring Chew to justice.

For their role in effectively curtailing the number of cheating cases in Singapore, Supt Yap's team was commended by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Hoong Wee Teck, at a ceremony on Tuesday (June 28).

In total, 154 individuals and 211 teams were presented with commendations. There were also four special commendations given out for the rejection of bribes.

According to Supt Yap, Chew had been under police investigation even before he became known for trying to give one customer over $1,000 in coins as a refund, and later for making another customer beg for a refund on bended knee.

She had formed the team in September 2014, before Chew became a household name. After two months of gathering evidence, the team raided Air Mobile in November that year, at about the time Chew began to gain infamy online.

"The whole investigation process was very long drawn, but we're happy that at the end of the day, justice was served," she said.

"We want to assure members of the public that when reports are filed, we will definitely look into it. But it takes time. We want to be fair not only to the victims but to the accused persons as well."

Some of the biggest challenges actually came from victims who were reluctant or unable to help with investigations, said Supt Yap.

Chew targeted foreign nationals, many of whom earned low wages and had a poor command of English. Supt Yap's team found that many complainants had left Singapore, and it was hard to get in touch with them.

Others were unconvinced that they would get any compensation and wanted to drop the case as they considered it too troublesome.

The team spent many late nights meeting sometimes uncooperative vicitms and translators to piece together the evidence needed to charge Chew.

"This case was unprecedented. Even when we went to trial to prosecute Jover Chew, we felt it was 50-50 on whether we could convict him," said Supt Yap.

Another policeman whose consistently good service was recognised by the Commissioner was Inspector Ho Shinq Chyuan, 38.

He investigated a case in which a 21-year-old man with mental health issues impersonated a policeman to counsel a 16-year-old girl he had met on Facebook.

The man had wanted to convince her to stop engaging in behaviour he considered immoral, and often went to her house to talk with her widowed mother and grandmother.

The girl's uncle grew suspicious of his claims to be a policeman when the man began to make increasingly absurd claims.

Once he claimed to have been promoted to Commissioner of Police and even offered to help the girl's brother get a job at the Criminal Investigation Department.

However, he did not gain any sexual or monetary benefit from his impersonation and seemed to genuinely care about his teenage "girlfriend". He was thus let off with a warning.