06 November 2012

MOM’s Crimewatch Stars

06 November 2012

Stills from the recent episode of Crimewatch

For six months, all MOM investigations officer Christina Aw had seen of her suspect was a mere photograph. Back then in 2011, 39-year-old Chua Mei Chern operated an unlicensed employment agency. Behind the deceptive front of “SSS Employment Services”, she charged foreigners exorbitant fees and arranged bogus job interviews, preying on their hopes to find a better job in Singapore to improve their lives.

“We made multiple attempts at tracking and luring Chua out, but she always seemed to be one step ahead of us. It was frustrating to be so close yet so far,” said Christina, who was working in the Foreign Manpower Management Division (FMMD) then. 

However, this just made Christina more determined in her investigation. After numerous ground enquiries and intelligence gathering, the efforts of Christina and her investigation team finally paid off.  They succeeded in luring out and arresting Chua’s partner-in-crime, Filipino Jeraldine Pagulayan Tuliao, who provided information that led to Chua’s arrest on 4 November 2011. Christina’s fellow investigations officer (IO) John Chee said, “It was really rewarding to see that our months of hard work had borne fruits. The sense of fulfilment we felt was simply off the charts!”

Chua was later sentenced to 25 weeks’ jail for four MOM-related charges. In total, she was sentenced to seven years’ jail for other cheating charges, with the sentence for the MOM-related charges running concurrently. Jeraldine Tuliao was fined a total of $25,000 for abetting Chua and for making a false declaration in her work permit application to be a foreign domestic worker.

John and Christina – MOM’s own Crimewatch celebrities!

If this story seems familiar, it is probably because the case was the highlight of the latest episode of Crimewatch. Along with their colleagues from the Employment Agencies Licensing Branch, Christina and John were not only the key players of the investigations team; they were also the stars of the episode!

When asked what was most memorable about the filming process, both Christina and John immediately mentioned the auditioning. “We were quite clueless what would happen next,” said John, doubling over with laughter as they recalled the awkward moments of their five minutes of fame. “There was this line, ‘Found anything?’, that we had to do over and over again just to get the tone and expression right,” recalled Christina.

The short Crimewatch snippet was a simplified version of what really happened, said John, as it would be difficult to reflect the full extent of their work. Christina agreed, and added that the teamwork exhibited by her team was something that was difficult to portray. “My team members were very much on the ball. We would drop everything and follow a lead, even if it was lunchtime, or a weekend,” she said. 

These dedicated officers find great fulfilment in what their job. It is not desk-bound, and each day is never the same. Furthermore, it allows them to help foreign workers in Singapore. 

In fact, with the knowledge and experience gained at FMMD under her belt, Christina has decided to tackle a new challenge: being a Conciliation Officer at the Labour Relations and Workplaces Division. Although she doesn’t find herself in exciting manhunts for suspects as often as she used to be, Christina still takes great pride in her work. “Each case motivates me,” said Christina, “When a case is solved, I feel that I have done my job well.”

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