Ex-research fellow cheated NUS out of over $39,000 in false claims over 8 years

·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
A National University of Singapore (NUS) sign, in its signature blue and orange.
Research fellow Thomas Teh Kok Hiong cheated NUS out of S$39,452.44 in claims. (PHOTO: Yahoo file)

SINGAPORE — A National University of Singapore (NUS) staff member cheated his employer into reimbursing him a total of S$39,452.44 for false claims over eight years.

Thomas Teh Kok Hiong, 42, was a research fellow with the Department of Biomedical Engineering when he made the claims, purportedly for work-related equipment. Instead, Teh actually submitted claims for items he bought for personal use, or for his family members’ use.

Teh pleaded guilty on Tuesday (14 June) to five counts of cheating and two counts of forgery. His sentencing has been adjourned to 25 July.

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Teh submitted 22 claims between October 2010 and September 2018.

These were purportedly for items such as wire cables, polycarbonate, steel, desoldering kits, alcohol wipes, drill bits, thermoscanners and absorbent pads, among other things. As per usual procedure, he would submit his claims through an electronic system accessible via the NUS staff portal. After the claim was submitted, the expense report will be routed to a verifier who would ensure that the proper documentation was attached.

The claim would then be routed to a claim approver who would perform a second round of checks. The claim would be sent to the Office of Finance for the reimbursement. No physical checks would be conducted to verify that the goods in the claims were actually obtained.

Changed receipts

As part of his scheme, Teh submitted expense reports containing false or inflated claims to NUS, altering the receipts or invoices involved.

For example, on 16 October 2017, Teh engaged DS Specialty Services to install solar film for his car. He paid $300 for the personal purchase. Even though he was not entitled to claim this amount, Teh forged an invoice from the shop and entered the description “UV Protective Film (1 roll)” with the price of $4,815 reflected. He submitted the forged document as an expense claim.

On another occasion, on 3 January 2018, Teh submitted an expense report and made a claim of $2,820 for a linear stage, stepper motor, and actuator from New Century Electronics. In fact, Teh had spent $1,000 on a labeller and radio for his personal use.

He forged a document by entering fake descriptions and the amount of $2,820 on a blank cash sale document. He then submitted this document to support his expense claim.

Teh has since made full restitution to NUS.

Teh had been charged alongside NUS’ Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering professor Tan Kok Kiong, who is accused of submitting S$100,100 in fraudulent claims to the university. His case is still pending.

Teh can be jailed up to three years, fined, or both for cheating. For forgery, he may be jailed for up to four years, or fined, or both.

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