SINGAPORE — A man who wanted to redeem more masks than he was entitled to stole personal information from the patient records of his landlady, who operated a Chinese medicine practice.
Lee Chee Horng, 42, then sent four of the seven masks he illegally redeemed to his family in Malaysia for their use, as he was worried for their safety and wellbeing.
Lee was jailed for a week on Thursday (28 October) after he pleaded guilty to cheating Temasek Foundation, which distributed the masks as part of its fourth nationwide distribution of mask packs.
Each Singapore resident was allowed to redeem a mask pack, which contained one Livinguard mask worth $10, by keying in their NRIC numbers at vending machines islandwide.
Facts of the case
At the time of the offences, Lee lived with a landlord who kept records of her patients in her flat.
Around 1 March, Lee discovered that she had kept records belonging to her patients in the storeroom of his unit. These records included their NRIC and Foreign Identification Numbers.
He then copied and retained the personal information belonging to five patients, intending to use the information to unlawfully redeem masks at the vending machines.
Apart from these five patients, Lee had taken a photo of a Senior Citizen PAssion card that he discovered at a void deck in Sembawang Drive last October. He unsuccessfully attempted to redeem the card’s points at a Giant Supermarket, but kept the photo for future use. He eventually used it to redeem a mask pack from a vending machine.
The rightful owner of the card, a 78-year-old woman, filed a police report on 4 March this year after being unable to collect her mask pack the day before, as it had already been redeemed.
Lee also used the personal particulars of another man, though it is unclear how he obtained the particulars of this man.
In total he unlawfully redeemed seven face masks, six of which he redeemed on 1 March. He sent four to his family in Malaysia and eventually surrendered the remaining three to the police.
Accused is 'kind and helpful', says landlady
The prosecution had submitted for a two-week jail term, while Lee's lawyer Peter Keith Fernando asked for a fine of $1,000 or alternatively, a jail term of one day with the $1,000 fine.
In mitigation, Lee, a 42-year-old Malaysian and Singapore permanent resident, said through Fernando that he had not been able to see his family in Malaysia since the start of the pandemic, even missing the birth of his second child, a daughter.
“He was under an immense amount of stress during the offence, which stems from constant worry about the safety and wellbeing for family and also not being able to carry his second child in his arms ever since she was born,” said the lawyer, who added that Lee was "most remorseful" for his actions.
Lee had taken the masks out of concern for his family across the Causeway, and destroyed the personal particulars he had copied after redeeming the face masks, said Fernando
The lawyer also submitted a letter from the landlady, who vouched to his good character, stating that Lee was a “kind and helpful soul" who often helped her around the house.
Lee's case is the latest in a string of cases involving individuals redeeming face masks by illegally obtaining or retaining NRICs numbers belonging to others.
An unemployed man was jailed four weeks and 12 days last month for using NRIC numbers belonging to various persons in the bankruptcy section of The Straits Times to redeem face masks.
A clinic assistant was also jailed for nine weeks for using NRIC numbers of patients who visited the clinic she worked at to redeem Temasek Foundation masks, while a property agent was jailed for a week for using NRIC numbers he obtained from clients for the same purpose. Both were sentenced earlier last month.
Cheating carries a jail term of up to three years, and/or a fine.
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