Funeral director who diverted customers to competitor for kickbacks jailed

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
(PHOTO: Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Dissatisfied with his pay, a funeral director referred customers to a competitor for kickbacks. 

Sunny Thng Poh Leong, 47, who worked for Direct Funeral Services, would receive a higher commission from competitor Funeral Hub than he would have if he had referred the customers to his own employer. 

Thng was sentenced on Tuesday (12 October) to four weeks' jail and a financial penalty of $3,520 to disgorge his profit from his corruptly obtained gains. 

He had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of corruptly agreeing to accept gratification from Lim Eng Soon, a partner of Funeral Hub Singapore, for referring potential customers from Direct Funeral Services to Funeral Hub, and for upselling funeral paraphernalia to the customers. 

Another count of a similar nature was considered for his sentencing. 

When asked if he had anything to say in mitigation, Thng, who was unrepresented, asked for leniency as he was the sole breadwinner of the family. 

"I hope that I can serve my sentence today and be back on time for my daughter's (Primary School Leaving Examination) result and selection of school," he said, adding that he had no money to pay for the penalty. 

Dissatisfied with pay

At the time of the offences, Thng was a funeral director with Direct Funeral. He was tasked to bring in sales by meeting potential customers and selling funeral packages to them. However, he was dissatisfied with his pay at Direct Funeral.

Lim had set up Funeral Hub as its sole owner in October 2018. However, he did not operate the business then as he lacked the contacts and skill to do so.

A month after Funeral Hub was set up, Thng approached Lim to collaborate. 

In December 2018, the two came to an agreement that Thng would refer customers to Funeral Hub in return for a 5 per cent commission on the funeral package. Thng would also receive commissions from Lim for upselling funeral paraphernalia such as fruit baskets, clothes and paper house sets.

Thng knew that he was breaching his duty to Direct Funeral, since he was diverting business away from his own employer to a competitor. However, he persisted in this illegal arrangement as the 5 per cent commission from Lim was higher than the 1 per cent referral fee he received from Direct Funeral.

In February 2019, Thng referred three customers to Funeral Hub. Two of the customers knew Thng as they had previously engaged Direct Funeral’s services. 

The third customer was Thng's personal friend. Thng recommended Funeral Hub for its cheaper and more value-for-money funeral package. 

On 5 March 2019, the corrupt arrangement was discovered by Direct Funeral, who fired Thng immediately. Thng told Lim about his termination and asked to work for Funeral Hub, commencing the next day. Lim agreed to the request.

Thng then presented a handwritten form to Lim setting out the commissions due to him arising from the three customers he had earlier referred. He negotiated the referral fee and requested payment.

Lim then transferred Thng $3,520, which represented Thng's commission for upselling funeral proceeding items and referring Direct Funerals’ customers to Funeral Hub. Thng spent the sum on personal expenses. 

Lim has also been handed two corruption charges. His case is currently pending. 

If Thng is unable to pay the financial penalty, he will have to serve 16 days' jail in default.

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