Former Keppel Club executive admits to $37 million fake membership scam

Former Keppel Club executive admits to $37 million fake membership scam
Singapore State Courts (AFP Photo)

A former executive from a country club who duped buyers into paying more than $37 million for fake memberships pleaded guilty to multiple charges of cheating on Monday (4 December).

Setho Oi Lin, also known as Setho Irene, 70, was convicted in the State Courts on 60 out of 3,000 counts of cheating people to buy Keppel Club memberships over 11 years between 2004 and 2014. Her remaining charges will be taken into consideration for sentencing.

Another two co-accused involved in the scam, Nah Hak Chua, a supervisor in the Keppel Club membership department, and Ivy Cheo Soh Chin, who is a friend of Setho’s, pleaded guilty last Thursday (30 November).

Nah and Cheo, both 67, were convicted on 30 out of 1,280 charges of falsifying accounts in the membership department and 20 out of 303 charges of money laundering, respectively. The two will return to court on 10 January next year.

Setho was first an executive and promoted to a senior executive of Keppel Club’s membership department at the time of the offences. She began working at Keppel Club in 1966 as a general clerk and rose through the ranks over the decades.

When she committed the offences, she was the personal assistant to the general manager, who was in charge of membership transfers, enrolment, resignation and queries.

Setho sold fake memberships to interested buyers who approached her or who went though membership agents. In collaboration with the agents, she would tell buyers that there were memberships available for transfer from phantom members when there were none available.

Setho told interested buyers to transfer payments either through cheque or cashier’s order to Cheo or Cheo’s family members: her daughter, mother and brother-in-law. These family members had never been members of Keppel Club, while Cheo herself was not selling her membership at the time.

After the money was deposited into the bank accounts, Cheo would withdraw the money for Setho. Cheo was allowed to keep between $500 and $1,000 per transaction as commission.

In total, Setho deceived 1,341 buyers into paying $37,490,711 in membership payments between 1 June 2004 and 1 August 2014. The amount includes $17,070,840 in membership transfer fees, which were meant to be paid to Keppel Club.

The buyers were allowed to enter and use Keppel Club’s facilities as they were issued membership cards and their details were made available in the club’s membership system. None were aware that they had been duped.

Of the total amount cheated, Setho received at least $11,023,530.

Setho will be back in court on 9 February next year.