Man who impersonated dead man for CPF funds jailed

Pedestrians outside the CPF Building at 79 Robinson Road.
Pedestrians outside the CPF Building at 79 Robinson Road.PHOTO: ST FILE

A judge rebuked a scam's "lead actor", who was so "well-rehearsed" he fooled a Central Provident Fund (CPF) officer into thinking he was someone else - someone who was not only older, but also dead.

Wheelchair user Nordin Ibrahim, 44, was jailed six weeks after admitting to impersonating the late Mr Yacoob Ismail, aged 63.

Nordin's acting convinced the CPF officer to attest to "Mr Yacoob's" nomination of Nordin's accomplice - Sufian Alwe - as the beneficiary of about $52,000 in the dead man's account.

District Judge Eugene Teo, who rejected Nordin's plea for a fine instead of jail, said that while Mr Sufian was the director, Nordin was the "lead actor " who had "done a good job of the (deception)".

On Jan 18, 2013, Nordin went to the CPF Board Service Centre with Mr Sufian. He produced the passport of Mr Yacoob, who had died two days earlier in Johor Baru, where he had lived since 2012.

The duo, who had been close to the dead man, found the passport while cleaning out his unit and withheld it from Mr Yacoob's family. Mr Sufian hatched the plot and Nordin agreed to impersonate Mr Yacoob to get his CPF money.

When queried by the officer why he looked older in the passport photo, Nordin replied that he was ill when the photo was taken. He was also able to answer some questions about the dead man's background accurately.

Satisfied, the officer and another colleague signed on the nomination form as witnesses and processed the application.

About a month later, Nordin and Mr Sufian returned to the CPF office, where Mr Sufian asked about Mr Yacoob's nomination details.

The duty officer checked and found that Mr Yacoob had died on Jan 16, two days before the fake nomination was made, and the two men were arrested.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Eunice Lim asked for a jail term, saying there was legitimate public interest in ensuring that public institutions such as the CPF were protected by a suitably deterrent sentence. She pointed out that the offence was clearly premeditated.

Nordin's lawyer, Mr S.K. Kumar, said he played a "passive" role compared with Mr Sufian and was angry because he got nothing for looking after Mr Yacoob for about a year after his family abandoned him.

Mr Sufian, 38, had already pleaded guilty and was jailed for two months in 2013.

The judge debunked the "convenient assertion" that Mr Yacoob would have been happy to give them his CPF money. "After all, the dead are no longer here to tell any tales," he said in judgment grounds released yesterday.

He added: "The deceased may have been estranged from his family, and their relationship may even have been strained at that point, but that does not mean that he never intended to leave his estate to his own family.

"What these two offenders did - after disappointingly finding out that blood was truly thicker than water - was to substitute their own judgment for what they thought was the better thing to do."

The judge said he reduced Nordin's jail term slightly, taking into account co-offender Sufian had "greater culpability" and Nordin's "many ailments".

Nordin is appealing against the ruling.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Man who impersonated dead man for CPF funds jailed'. Print Edition | Subscribe