SINGAPORE, April 17 — A second dentist from the Smile Division Dental Group admitted on Monday to cheating patients of their MediSave funds.
Daniel Liew Yaoxiang, 37 — a former national swimmer who took part in the 2000 Olympics and 2001 South-east Asian Games — dishonestly claimed S$388,700 (RM1.18 million) from six patients’ MediSave accounts by inflating the number of day surgeries he performed on them.
Each patient’s treatment lasted only one or two days, but the clinic made 24 to 32 false claims for each of them.
Liew pleaded guilty to 28 charges of conspiring to cheat and two charges of forgery. Another 250 cheating charges will be taken into consideration by District Judge Kan Shuk Weng for sentencing on May 3.
Liew is the second member of the bogus claims scam cooked up by another dentist, Steven Ang Kiam Hau, to be dealt with.
Ang, 43, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ jail last August for tricking the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board into disbursing more than S$434,000 from 14 patients’ MediSave accounts to the Smile Division clinic in Orchard where he worked.
The cases of two others involved in the scam, the dental group’s managing director Cecil Goh Chin Chye and practice manager Yeo Meow Koon, are pending.
Dentist worked on a commission basis
Ang devised the crooked scheme in 2009, in which the clinic would split MediSave claims to circumvent daily withdrawal limits for day surgery imposed by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Instead of stopping the scheme when he learnt about it, Goh allegedly rolled it out on more patients.
The court heard that Liew — who practised at Smile Division clinics in Hougang, Choa Chu Kang and Clementi — knew the scheme was illegal but took part in it from 2011 to 2013.
Whenever a new patient walked into his clinic, he would conduct a consultation and present a treatment plan and its estimated cost, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Teo Guan Siew.
Staff from the clinic would conduct “financial counselling” and check if the patient had sufficient funds in his or her MediSave account to cover the full cost of the treatment. If so, they would be offered a “package” that would enable them to do just that.
Liew would then proceed with the treatment. He authorised the submission of false claims to the CPF Board, making it believe that he had performed multiple day surgeries on the patients.
Each of the six patients had between S$36,000 and S$40,500 deducted from their MediSave accounts, making up a total of S$388,700.
According to the prosecution, Liew was not paid a fixed salary by Smile Division and worked purely on a commission rate of 50 per cent of the fees received.
“The more fees he collected on behalf of (Smile Division), the more profits he made for himself,” said Teo.
How the scam unravelled
The scam started unravelling on July 14, 2014 when the MOH made a police report based on information from the CPF Board of “inappropriate MediSave claims by some dental clinics”.
Based on an audit, the MOH suspected the Smile Division clinic in Choa Chu Kang of making four dishonest claims. The procedures supposedly performed by Liew did not, in fact, take place.
The CPF Board also analysed its 2013 data for total MediSave claims for certain dental treatments, and found that claims by certain Smile Division clinics were higher than other dental clinics that handled more cases.
Investigations by the Commercial Affairs Department uncovered two different sets of clinical notes for two of Liew’s patients. Liew admitted that he had forged the notes to submit to the MediSave Dental Audit Team.
The forgery allowed the scam to continue for more than a year from the first audit in October 2012, said the prosecution.
Teo pushed for a jail term of 30 to 36 months for Liew, saying the dentist had “weakened” the Government’s efforts to ensure Singaporeans have enough healthcare savings, especially in their later years, without a heavy tax burden.
Defence lawyer Sant Singh said Liew was a young dentist “wet behind the ears” when he was instigated by others and “foolishly” took part in the scam. Calling for a jail term of 15 months, Singh said the case has left Liew in a state of depression and financial ruin.
He has made restitution of S$470,174.49, inclusive of interest, to the CPF Board. The money has been returned to the patients’ MediSave accounts.
For each charge of conspiring to cheat and commit forgery, Liew faces a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine.
The cases of Goh and Yeo, who are accused of conspiring to cheat patients, will be heard at a later date. — TODAY