SINGAPORE: To settle his financial problems, a man plotted with his mother to fake her death and get payouts from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board and various insurance companies.
Abraham Rock, 36, made claims amounting to about S$3.77 million in relation to his mother's supposed death in a Pakistan traffic accident, and about S$129,300 was paid out by the CPF board and NTUC Income.
For his crimes, Rock was jailed on Thursday (Sep 26) for three years and 10 months, while and his mother Talat Farman, 54, was jailed 13 months.
The court heard that Rock was facing financial difficulties in 2017 when he devised a plan to commit insurance fraud by faking his mother's death.
He did research on which insurance policies gave the highest payouts after the insured person dies, and discussed this plan with his Pakistani uncle Sheikh Muhammad Kamran.
The plan was to fake his mother's death in a road accident, in order to double the death benefit coverage when the death involves the use of public transport.
While his uncle and two cousins helped in procuring fake documents needed to certify Talat's death, Rock bought two additional Great Eastern insurance policies and two annual travel insurance plans from MSIG and AXA for his mother, the court heard.
The mother agreed to take part in the plan, and Rock made round-trip travel arrangements for the two of them to travel to Islamabad, Pakistan on Jun 29, 2018.
Rock is Singaporean, while his mother was born in Pakistan and became a naturalised Singapore citizen after marrying here.
MOTHER AND SON TRAVELLED TO PAKISTAN WHERE SHE SUPPOSEDLY DIED
In Islamabad, Rock obtained forged documents from his uncle and got them translated into English to be used for insurance claims in Singapore.
His mother handed him her NRIC and passport, and he returned to Singapore alone.
On Jul 16, 2018, Rock went to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to report that his mother had purportedly died in an accident along Ring Road near Kohat Bridge in Peshawar on Jul 5, 2018.
He gave supporting documents from Pakistan including a police report, a medical report and a death certificate, along with his mother's identification documents.
Relying on the false information, an ICA officer changed the life status of Talat to "deceased" in the Central Identification and Registration System.
Rock then made an application to the CPF Board to withdraw money from his mother's CPF account, and the board delivered a sum of S$80,331 to Rock's POSB Savings Account on Sep 5, 2018.
He engaged a lawyer to assist in matters relating to his mother's purported death, and also submitted death benefit insurance claims to insurance companies AXA, MSIG, NTUC Income and Great Eastern.
AXA and MSIG hired surveyors to authenticate the claims after discovering irregularities in the documents submitted.
When the surveyors asked Rock for the burial address of his mother, he gave them the address of his grandmother's tomb.
After finding more discrepancies, AXA lodged a police report on Nov 13, 2018, alleging that Rock had submitted a fraudulent death benefit claim of S$508,000 against AXA's SmartTraveller travel insurance policy under his mother's name.
Subsequent investigations revealed that Talat was alive and staying in Pakistan, and arrangements were made for her to return to Singapore in November 2018.
Mother and son each pleaded guilty to various charges, mostly of cheating.
HE STOOD TO GAIN A PRINCELY SUM: PROSECUTOR
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kenneth Chin had urged the court to jail Rock for four years, and his mother for 15 months.
"This is a life insurance fraud case where the accused meticulously devised an elaborate plan to profit off the reported death of his mother," he said. "If (he had) succeeded, he stood to gain a princely sum of more than S$3 million."
"It's ironic that the purported deceased now stands beside him in the dock to face the consequences when the law has caught up with them."
He said the nature of insurance fraud affects the delivery of financial services, and is "a crime of multiple victims".
"Not just insurers, but members of the public," said the prosecutor. "I say this because the real victims of insurance fraud are the men on the street, such as your honour and myself, who bear increased premiums of insurance policies."
He added that Rock played an active role in the scheme - he concocted a method of death for higher returns, came up with a spreadsheet to calculate the potential gain and made insurance claims to multiple companies, said the prosecution.
It was "entirely fortuitous that the fraud was discovered by insurers who had to incur costs by hiring surveyors to authenticate the claims", he said, adding that no restitution has been made.
BULK OF PAYOUT IN SOME SENSE HER OWN MONEY: DEFENCE
Defence lawyer Trent Ng said the bulk of the actual payout was from the CPF Board and was "in some sense, her own money".
The prosecutor responded that "the point is, she was not entitled to withdraw the monies", and that "the deception of the CPF Board frustrated the policy intent of CPF".
"She's not entitled to (the money) at this point," stressed the prosecutor.
He added that the mother had played an active role by agreeing to take part in the scheme, travelling to Pakistan with her son and staying there while he executed it.
The defence, on its part, said Talat played "a passive role in all of this".
She knew her son was in financial hardship and agreed to the plan without fully knowing what it was about, "except that she had to play dead", he said.
The defence asked for not more than 26 months' jail for Rock, and six months for his mother.
Rock, who runs his own company and is an automotive consultant, invested S$300,000 with a man who subsequently could not be contacted, and spent close to S$100,000 in legal fees to try and sue the man and recover his investment loan.
He then devised the plan to commit the insurance fraud "in desperation".
His mother is "a simple-minded elderly lady" with no extended family in Singapore and is illiterate and hard of hearing, said the defence.
District Judge Christopher Tan said he had to take into account the transnational element in this case, which made it very difficult to gather evidence.
He added that the sheer scale of the amount involved is "out of the ball park".
The judge ordered the seized amount of more than S$12,000 in Rock's bank account to be returned to the CPF Board.
The uncle and two cousins are still at large.