Woman submitted false information to WDA, leading to fraudulent claims exceeding $64k

Lau Pin Lin pleaded guilty to two offences under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Acting on her boss' instructions, an administrative assistant submitted false information to fraudulently obtain training grants disbursed by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), a district court heard on Friday (Aug 23).

As a result of the offences, Lau Pin Lin and her then-boss Liu Mei Ying made 14 successful bogus claims totalling more than $64,000.

Lau, 42, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act. She also admitted to one count each of cheating and falsification of accounts.

The court heard that Liu, 55, was the sole director of Derma Flora Beauty Academy and Derma Flora Beauty. She was also the sole proprietor of Beaux Ex Bellus Trading.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew said that, collectively, these firms were known as the Derma Flora Group.

Lau, who worked for Derma Flora Beauty Academy and Derma Flora Beauty, resigned in October 2013. Liu's cases are still pending.

The two companies were training providers conducting beauty and body treatment courses that had been approved under WDA's Funding for Employer-based Training Scheme.

The initiative aimed to encourage employers to upgrade their workers' skills by defraying their costs in doing so.

The DPP added that Derma Flora Beauty and Beaux Ex Bellus Trading were "applicant companies" that had also applied for WDA funding under the scheme.

Court documents said applicant companies were firms that could apply for training grants to fund their employees' participation in courses run by approved training providers.

DPP Yew said that between December 2011 and July 2013, Lau acted on Liu's instructions and accessed SkillsConnect - an online portal hosted on WDA's server - to submit false information to the agency.

WDA was, among other things, told that trainees sent for courses by Derma Flora Beauty and Beaux Ex Bellus Trading were employees of the two firms when there were, in fact, no such workers. As a result, 14 successful fraudulent claims were made totalling more than $64,000.

The DPP told District Judge Kessler Soh: "Lau was never intended to receive any direct financial benefit nor did she receive any direct financial benefit from her participation in the scams."

The offences came to light in July 2013 when WDA conducted an audit on the Derma Flora Group. Lau then contacted the agency and the Committee for Private Education later that year, telling them about the fraudulent attendance records.

On April 1, 2014, the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) received a complaint from WDA against the Derma Flora Group about the fraudulent training grant claims.

Lau came clean about what she had done during CAD's investigations.

The DPP urged Judge Soh to sentence her to at least four months' jail, stressing that her offences involved a public institution.

Defence lawyer Rakesh Vasu, however, pleaded for his client to be given a high fine and said that Liu had taken advantage of Lau's vulnerability.

Lau is now out on bail of $15,000 and is expected to be sentenced on Sept 13.

For falsifying accounts, offenders can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.