Woman jailed over role to cheat IMDA of more than $41,000

Ng Sok Luan at the State Courts last January. She was sentenced to two months' jail on July 1, 2022. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A principal consultant at the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and a woman with whom he had an intimate relationship worked together to cheat the agency of more than $41,000, a district court heard on Friday (July 1).

Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Lim said that Jeffrey Ho Kiat, 55, was the mastermind of the ruse while Ng Sok Luan, also known as Cindy, was "more of a follower".

On Friday (July 1), Ng, 44, was sentenced to two months' jail after she pleaded guilty to three cheating charges. Ho's case is still pending.

Court documents did not disclose how the pair were caught.

Ho got to know Ng in 2006. Ng was then employed as his personal secretary.

She continued to work with him as his secretary throughout his different deployments until Oct 31, 2016. The prosecutor did not disclose details about these deployments.

In April 2017, the pair set up a firm called Goldentree Innovations as Ho wanted a business he could join in case his contract was not renewed at IMDA.

DPP Lim said: "As both Jeffrey and Cindy were employed in the public service at the time, they knew that they could not be registered as owners or directors of the company. (Thus), Cindy approached her brother-in-law... to act as a director and shareholder of the company."

The brother-in-law, identified as Mr Low Kian Tong, was registered as the company's director and shareholder, while Ho and Ng, who was then working at the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI), provided the start-up capital.

The prosecutor said that Ho and Ng were aware that as part of their job, they had to declare their interests in Goldentree to IMDA and MCI. But they did not do so.

Ng later took over Mr Low's positions at Goldentree after she resigned from MCI in late 2017.

The following year, Ho and Ng set up another firm called Creative Futures Agency, and Ng became its director and shareholder. Similarly, Ho did not declare his interests in the firm to IMDA.

The prosecutor added: "Some time in 2018, Jeffrey informed Cindy that Nelson Cho, who was a director of (a firm called) Zelkova Serrata... would assist to provide supporting quotations and invoices for a few IMDA projects.

"Based on Jeffrey's instructions, Cindy would prepare Zelkova's quotations and send them to Nelson Cho for his onward submission to IMDA."

Jeffrey Ho Kiat's case is still pending. PHOTO: ST FILE

The court heard that Ho would instruct Ng on how much to quote for the work under Zelkova, Goldentree and Creative Futures, as well as which company should win the contract.

She would then prepare the quotations.

If Zelkova won the contract, the pair would use Goldentree to do the work and obtain the profits from Zelkova after that.

After IMDA paid Zelkova, Ng would issue a false invoice to bill Zelkova for "provision of consultancy services" or "professional services".

Zelkova would then issue a cheque based on Goldentree's false invoice.

Mr Cho was allowed to keep some of the money paid by IMDA as a token of appreciation for facilitating this illicit arrangement. It was not stated if he will be, or has been, dealt with in court.

In one such incident, Ho was asked to work with IMDA's Built Environment Division on a project for the Punggol Digital District.

The DPP said that Ho then recommended six companies to an assistant manager of the Built Environment Division to carry out the work. They included Goldentree, Zelkova and Creative Futures.

The unsuspecting assistant manager then contacted the six firms to ask for quotes.

According to court documents, Ho also told Ng on how much to quote using Goldentree and Zelkova.

She quoted $6,800 via Goldentree on April 11, 2018. Mr Cho quoted $5,965 via Zelkova the next day.

The work was later awarded to Zelkova but it was Goldentree that carried it out.

On July 10, 2018, IMDA paid Zelkova $5,965 for the job. Five days later, Zelkova paid Goldentree $2,365 and subsequently also paid on Goldentree's behalf the freelancers who performed the contracted work.

Zelkova retained an illicit profit of $600.50 for the job.

Ng used a similar method to cheat on two more occasions in 2018.

Both she and Ho have since made full restitution to IMDA.

Correction note: An earlier version of the story said Ho was a former principal consultant at IMDA. This is incorrect. He was only suspended pending the conclusion of court proceedings against him.

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