SINGAPORE, June 13 — A 47-year-old freelance writer was sentenced FFyesterday, after pleading guilty to forging medical certificates (MCs) for more than three years to extend her membership at Amore Fitness.

Aida Tay Ai Ling’s membership at the all-women gym and spa company was due for renewal in 2016, the court heard.

At the time, Amore allowed its customers to extend their membership based on the number of days of their medical leave or travel period. To qualify for an extension, the periods of absence had to be three days or longer.

Customers could apply for extensions by uploading the supporting documents, such as MCs or travel itineraries, on Amore’s mobile application.

Finding the membership fees expensive, Tay engaged a printing shop to produce 10 fake MC booklets from Town Clinic, a clinic she used to visit and is located in Bugis. 

She also got a fake stamp, bearing the name of a general practitioner from the clinic, and used it to forge 17 MCs. She did this from April 22, 2016 to Sept 24 last year.

Her total duration of “medical leave” was 98 days.

On September 25 last year, an area manager for Amore got suspicious when she realised something amiss about the sequence of serial numbers on Tay’s MCs — a number in the date of one of the MCs appeared to be written over another number.

When the manager called the clinic to verify the MCs, the clinic assistant told her that the doctor had stopped issuing handwritten MCs for several years.

The general practitioner whose name was on Tay’s stamps then called the manager to say that she had not issued the MCs to Tay, who had last visited the clinic in November 2016.

The manager then made a police report and Amore terminated Tay’s membership through an email.

When Tay read the email, she claimed that that was when she learned about forgery being a criminal offence. She then destroyed the fake MC booklets and stamp.

She has since made full restitution for the S$498 (RM1,527.16) in losses that Amore estimated it had suffered from the fraud.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Yen Seow sought the sentence imposed, noting that Tay went to “great lengths” to forge the MC booklets and continued enjoying membership privileges without having to pay for new packages.

Tay’s lawyer Raphael Louis asked for probation, but District Judge Marvin Bay said that her case was not “truly exceptional” to warrant the rehabilitative sentence.

Louis argued in mitigation that it was “totally out of character” for Tay to commit these offences and that she was not a cheat. Going to jail would be the “third major setback” of her life after two failed relationships, the lawyer added.

When District Judge Bay asked Tay why she was “so attached” to Amore, she replied that it had been a “very important part” of her life and she had attended classes there for about a decade.

She would attend two to three classes daily and up to 15 of them weekly, which she admitted was “to the point of obsession”.

Tay, who has been clinically diagnosed with depression, said: “To some people, it’s just exercise, but to me, it is more than fitness. I attend dance classes and make a lot of friends. That’s my social circle.

“There’s a lot of interaction with members and they become second family... it is really my community that I fall back on and I feel happy and forget the troubles I’m facing. I still don’t understand why I was so dumb to do this.”

In sentencing Tay, District Judge Bay told her: “You should know that forgeries of MCs are taken particularly seriously, given that once an MC is produced, the recipient presumes that the illness or health condition exists, and is unlikely to question that the person should be granted the excuse or indulgence requested for.”

For forgery, Tay could have been jailed up to four years, fined, or both. 

For perverting the course of justice by destroying the booklets and stamp, she could have been jailed up to seven years, fined, or both. — TODAY