Woman jailed for using foreign workers' data to illegally redeem 397 Temasek face masks

Chua Sah May, 48, conducted the illegal redemption over two distribution drives, stealing $3,176 worth of masks. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A recruiter used the foreign identification numbers (FIN) of foreign workers to collect 397 Temasek masks - so she could share them with her friends and family, a court heard on Monday (Jan 17).

Chua Sah May did this over two distribution drives of free face masks from Temasek Foundation, stealing $3,176 worth of masks.

The 48-year-old Singaporean pleaded guilty on Monday to one charge of cheating Temasek Foundation to issue her face masks and was jailed for seven months.

The court heard that at the time of the incident, Chua worked as a recruiter who was outsourced to manufacturing firms Clariant Singapore and Achroma Singapore to handle payroll and work pass matters.

But between June and September 2020, she used the FIN details entrusted to her to redeem reusable masks kits which were issued to all Singapore residents to help the community stay safe from the coronavirus.

"(Chua) selected the FIN of the companies' foreign employees whom she believed had either left Singapore or could not enter Singapore because of the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Louis Ngia.

The court heard that she would copy their details on a piece of paper and later key the codes into vending machines at Yio Chu Kang Community Club. She did this on 397 occasions.

In October 2020, a foreign sales manager at Clariant South East Asia made a police report after he was unable to retrieve face masks from a vending machine, which informed him that he had already redeemed his masks a week ago.

Security footage caught Chua keying in the FIN of the foreign employees, causing the machine to dispense mask kits to her.

She was arrested and surrendered a total of 454 Temasek Foundation mask kits which were kept at her home, but could not be accepted by the firm due to hygiene reasons, said DPP Ngia, who urged for a jail sentence of at least seven months.

He added that Chua had exploited an important initiative by Temasek to provide free masks to residents to curb the spread of Covid-19.

"(She) took masks that could last her a total of more than 66 years," said DPP Ngia. "Seen in this light, the accused's offence was thus one of pure greed and disregard for the needs of others in the community."

Urging the judge to sentence Chua to six months' jail, defence lawyer Ramesh Tiwary said: "She is very remorseful and she cannot explain the stupidity of her actions. She had taken the masks because she wanted to share it with her friends and family."

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, a Temasek Foundation spokesman warned that those who dishonestly deprive others of the masks through fraudulent means will be dealt with in accordance with the law.

He added that the firm's vending machines are equipped with security cameras.

Residents who encounter any issues collecting their masks can e-mail staymasked@temasekfoundation.org.sg

Temasek Foundation's current mask distribution drive ends on Sunday (Jan 23).

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.