Man who got top-dollar jobs with fake university degrees gets busted when construction firm checks with NTU

SINGAPORE: A man who has been forging degree certificates since 2009 to get well-paying jobs was foiled in 2020, when a construction firm checked with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) about his qualifications.

Yeoh Keng Swee, 55, was sentenced to 15 months’ jail on Thursday (Nov 24). He pleaded guilty to three counts of forgery for the purpose of cheating, with another 10 charges taken into consideration.

Yeoh forged various degree certificates from universities like NTU and the National University of Singapore (NUS) for subjects like engineering and law, in order to apply for jobs ranging from managerial positions to chief financial officer.

He would search for PDF copies of the documents he wanted and print them out as templates. He would then print out his name and other details onto another piece of paper.

He would cut out the details he needed and paste them over the template, before photocopying it to create the forged documents.

According to the charge sheets, his crimes go back to as early as 2009, when he forged a Bachelor of Accountancy degree certificate allegedly issued by NTU.

He submitted it to a company for the role of audit manager. Court documents did not state whether he got the job.

Details were included in court documents only for three jobs in recent years, the first being in July 2019.

WHAT HAPPENED

Yeoh forged several documents including a Bachelor of Accountancy degree with honors certificate purportedly from NTU and a Master of Science in Business Administration degree certificate purportedly from Andrews University.

He also forged a certificate stating that he was a certified practicing accountant.

He emailed the forged documents to Boon Chang Structure as part of his job application for the position of chief financial officer.

He was hired for the job, starting work in September 2019, but his work performance was poor and drew numerous complaints.

He resigned in December 2019, claiming that his eyesight was failing and that he wanted to rest. He was paid a total of S$14,324.75 for his time at the company.

In January 2020, Yeoh went for an interview at Gain City Best-Electric for the position of finance director. He submitted several forged documents similar to those he had submitted for the 2019 job.

Gain City was tricked into believing that Yeoh had the necessary qualifications to be employed as a finance director, and hired him.

He started work in February 2020 but was fired in July 2020 after failing to meet the necessary performance criteria. He was paid a total of S$51,258.46 for his time there.

THE JOB INTERVIEW THAT GOT HIM BUSTED

In November 2020, Yeoh forged different documents – a Bachelor of Law degree certificate purportedly issued by NUS and a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil) degree certificate from NTU.

He submitted the forged documents as part of his job application to Success Forever Construction and Maintenance for the position of construction project manager.

He attended an interview in December 2020 and claimed he was in too much of a rush to bring the original documents.

After this, he attended two further interviews, but was found to be unable to satisfactorily answer questions testing his technical knowledge.

After he overheard his interviewer and her employer discussing verification of his qualifications, Yeoh withdrew his job application. He asked the interviewer to destroy the supporting documents he had submitted before leaving.

In January 2021, a representative filed a police report on behalf of NTU, stating that the university had received a request for degree verification and found that the degree certificate submitted by Yeoh was forged.

On Thursday, Yeoh asked the judge if the media could be prevented from publishing his name.

“I’m here to ask the media not to publish my name on the paper because my relatives and friends will get affected,” he said.

The judge told him that there was no gag order in his case and that there was “nothing to stop” the media as it was a public hearing.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Zu Zhao asked for 15 to 18 months’ jail. He said he was not asking for a compensation order as Yeoh did not have the means to compensate the victims.

DEFENSE ASKS FOR LOWER JAIL TERM

He has not made any restitution, but his lawyer Audrey Koo from Populus Law said this is because he does not have the financial means to do so.

Ms Koo said he now works as a kitchen assistant-cum-cashier, earning S$850 to S$1,000 monthly.

Since his offenses and subsequent arrest, Yeoh has been working hard to get back on the right path, she said.

“At his age, it’s difficult for him but it’s an honest living,” she said of his new job.

She said Yeoh is deeply remorseful and has no prior convictions. He also cooperated fully with the police. She asked for no more than 15 months’ jail, highlighting that Yeoh has “kept his hands clean” since his arrest.

He also suffers from health conditions like high blood pressure and kidney disease.

The judge said he was generally in agreement with the prosecution, but would make sure the prisons are aware of Yeoh’s medical issues.

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