SOCIAL SERVICE OFFICER CHARGED FOR STEALING FROM NEEDY FAMILIES

33 year-old Chia Kwang Hwee, a social service officer (SSO), was charged in court for stealing money meant for needy families when he pocketed $343,780 of aid.

He used the money to pay off his family's debts and give cash gifts to relatives. He also enjoyed an extravagant lifestyle, spending on dining, airline tickets and purchases from high-end boutiques. Police confiscated $30,000 worth of luxury goods from his home when he was arrested.

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The offences took place over 3 years, from November 2011 to August 2014.

Chia was a social service officer at the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) Social Service Office (SSO) at Geylang Serai.

In 2012, Chia collected 95 cheques amounting to S$59,420 and deposited the money into his own bank account after he cashed them. The next year, he did the same with 219 cheques amounting to S$137,640.

In December 2013, when the ministry moved away from handing out cheques to disbursing the money straight into needy families’ bank accounts, Chia used his access to the Ministry's online system to send payments to his own bank account instead of the needy recipients. He used his colleagues' accounts to approve these payments.

The misdeeds were brought to light in 2014 when the Social Services Office was alerted by a family who had not received their financial assistance payment. Internal investigations found suspicious transactions and the ministry lodged a police report the next day.

He will be sentenced on 22 December.

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