SINGAPORE, Aug 12 — The former managing director of Smile Division Dental Group was jailed for three years today for taking part in a scheme to cheat the Government of hundreds and thousands of dollars through fraudulent MediSave claims.
Cecil Goh Chin Chye, 52, was among four of the dental group’s employees charged in relation to the fraud. He is the last one to be dealt with by the courts.
The employees had taken nearly S$1 million from 29 patients’ accounts by submitting claims to the Central Provident Board (CPF) Board, which oversees the MediSave savings scheme, for non-existent surgeries between 2011 and 2014.
The illicit profits went into their own and Smile Division’s pockets.
The total sum disbursed in respect of Goh’s nine patients amounted to S$288,900.
After Goh was first charged in 2017, he committed more offences by getting several forged invoices in order to back up his assertion that his clinics made a loss or little profit from the scheme. He then sent the documents to the prosecution.
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to 36 charges, mostly for conspiring to cheat and commit forgery. Principal District Judge Victor Yeo considered another 214 similar charges for sentencing.
The prosecution said that the fraudulent acts not only left patients without savings that they likely needed in their retirement for essential or life-saving treatments, but also “fundamentally undermined Singapore’s healthcare policy”.
MediSave, the national medical-savings scheme, can be used by account holders to pay for certain medical expenses or those of immediate family members.
Between 2011 and 2013, Smile Division operated nine clinics across the island and employed around 30 dentists. Full-time dentists received a percentage of fees from each patient.
The court heard that another dentist at Smile Division, Steven Ang Kiam Hau, came up with the ploy in 2009. He worked at the group’s clinic at Lucky Plaza mall at the time.
Goh, who mainly practised at the group’s Yishun clinic and also in Lucky Plaza, got to know of the ploy in 2011. He had been a dentist since 1996.
He saw it as a way to attract more patients by offering them the option of “reducing” the amount of money they needed to pay upfront for their surgeries.
They pulled off the scheme by dishonestly splitting claims based on multiple fake surgery dates. This allowed them to circumvent the MediSave daily withdrawal limits for day surgery imposed by the CPF Board.
Through this, patients who previously could not or were unwilling to pay for dental implant surgery, which was costlier compared to alternatives such as dentures, could now pay for the full treatment through MediSave.
However, this meant that their MediSave savings would be depleted.
Goh then learned how to perform dental implant procedures and used this fraudulent scheme at the Yishun clinic in early 2011.
Yeo Meow Koon, then a practice group manager at Smile Division, helped to submit the fraudulent claims and taught other nurses how to do it. Yeo was jailed for 48 weeks in June last year for conspiring with Goh to cheat the CPF Board.
In 2011, Goh and Ang further agreed to continue with the plan at the Lucky Plaza clinic, but did not restrict it to underprivileged patients anymore.
Ang made 283 dishonest MediSave claims for 14 patients. The total sum disbursed by the CPF Board for them amounted to about S$430,000.
Goh also decided to use this tactic at various clinics under the group and encouraged other dentists, including Daniel Liew Yaoxiang, to adopt it.
Investigations started in 2014, after the Ministry of Health made a police report following audits conducted at four of the clinics.
Ang was jailed for two-and-a-half years in August 2018. Liew, also a former national swimmer who practised at Ang’s clinic, was jailed for two years in May 2019.
Goh has made full restitution to the CPF Board, including interest. The board has credited the sum into the respective patients’ MediSave accounts from which the claims were disbursed.
The Smile Division Dental Group is now known as TSD Dental Group.
Offences after being charged
When Goh was charged in 2017, he contacted Andrew Tan, a sales director for the dental equipment supplier that worked with Smile Division.
Goh asked the other man to provide him with invoices for surgical procedures performed by Liew and Ang from 2011 to 2013.
Among other instructions, Goh told Tan to reflect the original prices for equipment rather than the discounted prices for bulk orders. The invoices were also dated 2011 and 2013 rather than 2019, when they were prepared.
Twenty-nine invoices were sent to the Attorney-General’s Chambers as part of written representations in the plea-bargaining process. Further investigations on the origin and basis of the invoices were then conducted.
In their sentencing submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors G Kannan, Suhas Malhotra and David Koh pressed for 30 to 36 months’ jail for the cheating offences, as well as another one year for forgery.
“A clear message needs to be sent out that medical practitioners who deliberately undermine the Government’s healthcare policy, for the sake of personal monetary profit, at the expense of the future medical needs of their patients, as well as the wider public interest, will not be let off lightly,” they argued.
Goh was represented by lawyers from Rajah & Tann.
For conspiring to cheat the CPF Board, he could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined. For forgery, he could have been jailed for up to four years or fined, or both. — TODAY