Massage Parlour ‘Engaged’ 3 Phantom Employees to Claim $1,000 Worth of COVID-19 Subsidies

While unemployment is real for some, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, others have tried to use it as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Which, ironically, landed them in jail.

Just yesterday (2 December), two individuals who used to work at a spa were issued a jail sentence of two months and a week each after it was found that they had lied about their job status to receive the COVID-19 subsidies given by the government.

Earlier this year, in November, the pair had pleaded guilty to one count of cheating and furnishing false information to a public servant each.

The two employees are Joey Yeo, 29, and Danny Ho Wai Hong, 31. Both ended up receiving $500 from the subsidies scheme after lying. The spa involved is Kings Spa, although Yeo was an employee under the spa’s former name, Spa 9.

Apart from them, other people were involved as well.

Loo Yi Ming, 31, was responsible for signing off on fraudulent documents for the spa to be eligible for another grant. He later pleaded guilty to a charge of falsification of accounts and was sentenced to one month in jail yesterday (2 December).

A couple, Deidrea Tan Zhong Lin and Gay Kah Leong, also took part in the offences.

Tan, 31, held the role of director when the offences happened. She was previously sentenced to seven weeks in jail.

Gay, also 31, served as the spa’s operations manager. His case is currently pending.

Here’s what happened.

Became “Phantom” Employee to Continue Receiving CPF Contributions

In earlier proceedings, Deputy Public Prosecutor Tay Jia En revealed in court that Tay had told the spa that she wanted to stop working around 2018 or 2019.

However, the management eventually settled with her on an agreement that she would remain a “phantom” employee, meaning that the spa would still contribute to her monthly Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions.

Ho, who decided to stop working at the spa as a receptionist in August 2018 after just one month of work, ended up with the same arrangement after speaking to Gay.

However, Gay had explained to Ho that he would continue to hire Ho as a “phantom” employee and continue to contribute to his CPF so that the company would remain eligible to hire foreign employees.

The pair ended up with CPF contributions made by the spa even after they stopped working there from June 2019 to August of the following year.

Yeo ended up with a minimum of $7,326, while Ho received at least $5,809 in CPF contributions.

They would also sign off on fake payslips to make it seem like they were actual employees.

Applied for Temporary Relief Fund as Well

After the COVID-19 pandemic started, Yeo and Ho decided to apply for the Temporary Relief Fund, which offered subsidies to those whose jobs were affected by the pandemic.

In her application, Yeo mentioned that she had lost her job due to the pandemic and indicated her gross monthly income before 23 January 2020 as $1,000.

According to her confession afterwards, she had lied that her salary was $1,000 based on the CPF contributions the spa had made to her as a “phantom” employee.

On the other hand, Ho wrote that he had lost 30% of his income due to the pandemic, stating that his gross monthly income before 23 January 2020 was $1,500 and that it had been reduced to $800. He also said that $1,300 of his monthly salary came from Kings Spa.

“Danny admitted that he had to “anyhow put in” this amount so that it would show that he had lost at least 30 per cent of his income,” DPP Tay noted.

Fraudulent Documents Were Submitted to IRAS by Operations Manager

Other than Yeo and Ho, Gay also allegedly submitted fraudulent documents on purpose so that he would be eligible for the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS).

The JSS was introduced as wage support to offer companies more support to continue hiring their local staff. However, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) also started to require employers with higher risk profiles to carry out a self-review starting in June 2020.

This was to minimise and identify if any individuals were trying to abuse the scheme.

The self-review included a declaration and the submission of supporting documents to prove that they qualified for JSS.

On 10 August 2020, Gay apparently to submitted his fake documents to IRAS to complete the self-review.

As for who signed off on the documents, Loo was the one who did so. By then, he was already an employee elsewhere and was working as an account manager.

After reviewing Gay’s application, IRAS did not issue the payout to Kings Spa.

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Regarding the self-review, IRAS also reached out to Yeo and Ho as part of Gay’s self-review, asking the pair about their employment statuses.

Both fabricated lies by saying that they were actual employees and were not receiving their CPF contributions through illegal means.

This prompted an IRAS officer to contact the police on 28 September 2020, around a month after Gay had submitted his application.

Yeo chose to begin her jail sentence yesterday (2 December), while both Loo and Ho were offered bail of $5,000 each.

Ho has decided to start serving his sentence on 5 December, and Loo will do the same on 9 December.

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