Singapore

Social service worker jailed for stealing money meant for poor

The social service worker who bought luxury goods and settled debts with money meant for the poor was jailed for five years and four months yesterday.

From November 2011 to August 2014, Chia Kwang Hwee, 33, pocketed nearly $344,000 that was meant for 42 low-income and needy individuals and families.

He spent $110,000 on expensive spa and hair salon packages, pricey meals, holidays and branded goods.

Chia also used about $130,000 to settle debts owed by him and his relatives, and gave family members about $100,000 in cash as gifts.

He took money from the Community Care Endowment Fund (ComCare).

He had earlier pleaded guilty to 19 charges - two each for criminal breach of trust as a public servant and transferring criminal proceeds, and 15 for accessing a computer to commit criminal breach of trust. Another 107 similar counts were taken into account in sentencing as part of his plea bargain.

Between June 2009 and June 2013, Chia was a manager at the South East Community Development Council (South East CDC).

From July 2013, he was a manager at the Social Service Office (SSO) in Geylang Serai. At both places, he was responsible for disbursing ComCare monies.

From Jan 1, 2012 to Dec 31, 2013, Chia collected about 300 cheques for $197,060, issued by South East CDC or Geylang Serai SSO on behalf of beneficiaries. He encashed the cash cheques and deposited the money into his bank account.

ACCESS RIGHTS

In November 2012, while at South East CDC, Chia took on the role of team leader and was granted access rights to a computer system used to administer ComCare funds to beneficiaries.

He also had system administrator rights and could reset the passwords of other account users.

He misused his administrator rights to steal money meant for beneficiaries. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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