Widow found guilty of cheating HK$590,000 in welfare money

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 4:07am

A widow who once had more than HK$1.74 million in her bank accounts was yesterday found guilty of swindling almost HK$590,000 in public assistance money over six years.

To Ah Sin was convicted of one count of fraud after District Court Judge David Dufton rejected her explanation that she was keeping the money in her bank accounts for her mother.

"I do not find To's evidence credible," the judge said.

To, 58, earlier told the court she relocated to Hong Kong from the mainland in 1993. Her husband died in 1998, leaving her with two young children, aged three and six. She had received Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) since then.

To said her parents lived on the mainland, and as her mother did not have a Hong Kong identity card and could not open a bank account in the city, she gave To the money to invest with in Hong Kong.

The court heard that To failed to inform the Social Welfare Department that between 2004 and 2010, she had 11 bank accounts, two securities accounts and five insurance policies. She also did not inform the department that she held some part-time and temporary jobs during that time.

The judge said he did not find To's evidence credible because her five insurance policies were either in her own name or her son's - her mother was not even a beneficiary in any of them.

In addition, To credited the income from her jobs to the 11 undisclosed bank accounts instead of the one she used to receive welfare money. This showed she wanted to conceal her assets from the department, the judge said.

"To made the false representation to the department … as she knew it would affect her CSSA entitlement," Dufton said.

In court, To claimed she suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes. She had also undergone five operations for a gynaecological illness since 2009. The judge adjourned sentencing to October 22, pending her background and medical reports.

The court was told that under the CSSA scheme, a three-person family would become ineligible for the public assistance money if its assets surpassed HK$70,000.

At her wealthiest, To's 11 undisclosed bank accounts showed a balance of HK$1.74 million in October 2007. But she never reported them to the authorities, although she was required to do so under the scheme.