Man used NRIC numbers from Straits Times bankruptcy section to redeem face masks

·Senior Reporter
·2 min read
Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Singapore's State Courts seen on 21 April 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — An unemployed man who was reading a copy of The Straits Times newspaper came across a list of NRIC numbers belonging to various persons in the bankruptcy section of the broadsheet.

Yu Kwong Zee, 51, decided to copy down the NRIC numbers in order to claim face masks from Temasek Foundation’s vending machines.

On Thursday (30 September), Yu was jailed four weeks and 12 days for his actions. He pleaded guilty to one count of cheating Temasek Foundation into disbursing face masks to him, and one count of retaining the personal information of seven persons from the bankruptcy section of The Straits Times, published on 3 December last year.

One count of fraudulently possessing 13 masks from vending machines was taken into consideration for his sentencing.

Temasek Foundation organised a third round of its nationwide mask collection exercise from 30 November to 13 December last year. Singapore residents with a valid identification card could collect face masks from any of the designated vending machines at community centers and clubs. A person could collect a face mask by keying in the number or scanning the barcode on NRICs, birth certificate or any form of government-issued identification.

On 5 December last year, Yu went to Nee Soon Community Centre to use the mask vending machines. He keyed in the NRIC numbers which he had copied from bankruptcy section of The Straits Times seven times. His actions were captured by CCTV cameras.

One victim, a 38-year-old man, lodged a report after he was unable to claim his face mask.

When he was investigated by the police, 20 face masks were seized from him.

Yu’s lawyer, Cheryl Sim, said the offence was committed on the spur of the moment and pointed out that the NRIC numbers were publicly available.

Yu pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and has since made full restitution, Sim said. The first-time offender had cooperated with the authorities as well, she added. 

Sim also said that Yu was facing “some financial struggles which have been tough” on him, and that he was supporting elderly parents.

His sentencing came amid a string of cases involving other accused persons redeeming face masks by illegally obtaining or retaining NRICs numbers belonging to others.

A clinic assistant was jailed for nine weeks for using NRIC numbers of patients who visited the clinic she worked at to redeem the 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 on Monday.

In May, a former job recruiter who used NRIC numbers that he had amassed over eight years to collect 207 masks was jailed seven months, six weeks and also fined $3,000.

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