Jailed for work pass scam
Filipina helped foreigners get work passes to be maids while they seek other jobs
She knew of several foreign women who were looking for ways to extend their stay in Singapore legally.
To make a quick buck, Celeste Provido Apostol, 36, started an employment agency of sorts: She linked up foreign women with false employers here so they would be granted foreign domestic worker (FDW) work passes.
Ostensibly, these women had been employed as maids in Singaporean homes. In fact, they had paid for the work passes so they could legally extend their stay while seeking alternative employment.
They worked as performing artists, freelance cleaners, manicurists and in other odd jobs.
Apostol, a Filipino, was yesterday sentenced to 16 months' jail.
She had earlier pleaded guilty to 16 charges of engaging in a conspiracy to make a false declaration while 17 more charges - 16 of engaging in a conspiracy to make a false declaration and one of running an employment agency without a license - were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court heard that Apostol previously worked as a marketing manager for Asia Supreme Property, where she got to know Tay Szu Khee, the company's director.
Apostol and Tay hatched a plan to get FDW passes for foreigners who wanted to legalise their extended stay in Singapore.
They charged the women between $3,500 and $4,000 for the service and took a cut of the sum after paying off the bogus Singaporean employers.
The Singaporeans were paid between $700 and $2,000.
Apostol was in charge of dealing with interested foreigners while Tay was supposed to link up with Singaporeans interested in being bogus employers.
They operated between 2009 and 2013, despite the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) starting a probe in 2011.
She roped in two recruiters - Filipino Romeline Paa Tiongson and Hale MaArnie Pagaran.
Tiongson was usually the one who took the foreigners' information and passed them to Apostol, who filled out work pass application forms and submitted them to MOM.
Over four years, she found 27 foreigners and 21 "employers".
During sentencing, District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said the operation was run on an extensive scale, almost like a syndicate.
He said Apostol played a leading role that was "central and pivotal" to the operation, which had been designed to circumvent MOM's framework.
"Your egregious conduct in continuing after being investigated shows your disregard for the law," he said, adding that a strong sentence was needed to reflect the gravity of the offence and Apostol's role in it.
In a statement, MOM called it one of the largest scams of this nature it has investigated.
"This is a serious case of deceit, and a blatant disregard for the work pass framework.
"We will not tolerate fraud, and will take firm action against those who wilfully deceive the ministry," said Mr Kevin Teoh, divisional director of MOM's Foreign Manpower Management Division.
The ministry said all the bogus maids have been dealt with in court. They will be sent home and permanently barred from working in Singapore.
It is dealing with the bogus employers separately. Those convicted of providing false information will be barred from hiring any foreign workers.
This is a serious case of deceit, and a blatant disregard for the work pass framework.
- MOM, in a statement that said this was one of the largest scams of this nature it has investigated