SINGAPORE: Over the span of about a month, a long-time employee at Poh Heng Jewellery pocketed 139 pieces of jewellery worth about S$98,000.
None of the employees questioned him when he took the precious items as he was their supervisor, and had worked there for more than 30 years.
Tan Chee Hoo, 56, was sentenced on Monday (Mar 23) to a year and seven months' jail for one count of criminal breach of trust as an employee and another as a servant.
The court heard that Tan joined Poh Heng in July 1984, rising to become a repairs supervisor in 2004, overseeing one of the company's workshops where customers took their jewellery for servicing.
He oversaw the repairs and was entrusted with the jewellery while it was in the repair workshop.
He started taking pieces of jewellery on Dec 16 last year, pawning them at the Megacash pawn shop in Bedok to fund his gambling habit.
The precious items he took over 13 occasions up till Jan 20 this year included gold bangles, rings, pendants earrings and bracelets.
He intended to use the money from pawning off the jewellery to gamble further and recoup gambling losses, pay off his debts and return to the pawn shop to redeem the jewellery.
However, he realised on Jan 20 this year that he would not be able to redeem the items and had no choice but to come clean.
He told Poh Heng's human resources manager about what he had done, and was fired from his job. A police report was filed and Poh Heng redeemed the jewellery for S$98,048.
It also deducted a sum of about S$2,600 from Tan's salary in an attempt to recover their losses.
District Judge Marvin Bay told Tan that he had "most egregiously abused the trust reposed by your company", where he had worked for 36 years.
"You had used the proceeds to feed your gambling habit and in a helpless attempt to recoup your losses," said the judge.
He said it was fortunate that Poh Heng was able to redeem the jewellery, but added that it suffered losses to its reputation.
For each charge of criminal breach of trust, Tan could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.
In response to queries by CNA, a spokesperson for Poh Heng said all the repaired jewellery was weighed and checked before being returned to the affected customers.
They added that they had also discovered the embezzlement when individual store managers started complaining about a lag in turnaround time for the repair items.
“We have since tightened our measures significantly to prevent such recurrences,” said the spokesperson.
These include having a separate manager directly supervising the repair team, increasing the number of internal audit checks and separating the workflow process, with the repair team beginning work only after the jewellery sent for repairs is checked and weighed by a separate department.