The mastermind of one of the largest domestic work permit scams that have been investigated by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) was sentenced to a 16-month jail term yesterday.

According to a press release by MOM, the mastermind, Celeste Provido Apostol, a 36-year old Filipino – was charged in court on 20 January 2015 with 33 charges.

These included 32 counts of false declaration offences and one count for carrying out the activities of an employment agency without obtaining a licence.

In a nutshell, the accused aided foreigners with no intention to work as foreign domestic workers (FDWs) in obtaining domestic work permits for their stay in Singapore.

For each work permit she helped obtain, the accused collected fees of between $3,500 and $4,000 from each foreign worker.

Pleading guilty in Court on 15 October 2015 to 16 charges (the remaining 17 charges was taken into account for the sentencing), she was sentenced to a total jail term of 16 months.

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Kevin Teoh, divisional director of MOM’s Foreign Manpower Management Division commented, “This is a serious case of deceit, and a blatant disregard for the work pass framework. We will not tolerate fraud, and will take firm action against those who wilfully deceive the Ministry.”

“Providing false information to MOM to obtain a work pass is an offence under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA). If convicted, offenders can be fined up to $20,000, with possible imprisonment of up to two years,” the press release stated.

Case facts

  • Celeste Provido Apostol headed the scam to obtain domestic work permits for foreigners with no intention to work as FDWs, but only wanted to stay in Singapore.
  • She conspired with “recruiters” who sourced for foreigners in need for the permits, as well as locals who were willing to provide their particulars as “employers” for monetary gain.
  • Knowing that these foreigners would not be working as FWDs, she matched them with these “employers” and arranged for work pass application forms to be submitted to MOM between June 2009 and March 2013.
  • Fees between $3,500 and $4,000 were collected from each foreigner for the permits.
  • Instead of working as FDWs, the bogus “FDWs” used their work permits to remain in Singapore, some working as performing artistes, freelance cleaners, manicurists, and in other odd jobs.

Total number of bogus FDWs found: 27

Total number of bogus employers found: 21

READ MORE: Former labour relations officer jailed for obscene videos

Additional details

  • Celeste Provido Apostol worked as a marketing manager on an Employment Pass between 23 November 2009 and 17 August 2011.
  • The foreigners involved in the scam have also been prosecuted and convicted in Court.
  • Total fines of between $3,000 and $10,000, as well as an imprisonment sentence of four weeks have been imposed.
  • These foreigners will be sent home and permanently barred from working in Singapore.
  • MOM will separately deal with the “recruiters” and bogus “employers”. Locals found guilty for posing as “employers” will be barred from hiring any foreign worker.

Image: Shutterstock

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