Woman jailed for embezzling nearly S$1.5 million from charity, lost most of it in love scam
SINGAPORE: A finance and administrative assistant at a non-profit organisation embezzled S$1.46 million from the charity over a few months.
She used most of it on a "lover" who turned out to be a scammer, and spent the rest on jewellery and luxury goods for herself.
When the police granted her a phone call in lock-up on compassionate grounds to make childcare arrangements for her daughter, she texted a friend instructing them to lie about the case.
Aggiss Tan Shu Han, 36, was given six years and seven months' jail on Wednesday (Jul 28).
She pleaded guilty to one count each of criminal breach of trust by a servant, giving false information to a police officer and obstructing the course of justice.
Another three charges were considered in sentencing.
The court heard that Tan was employed as the finance and administrative assistant of non-profit organisation The International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease Asia Pacific.
She earned a monthly salary of about S$2,500 from the organisation, a registered charity that develops and implements anti-tuberculosis, lung health and non-communicable disease programmes.
Tan was tasked with making payments to vendors such as consultants and suppliers via bank transfers. She worked with accountant Cuthbert Syn, the only other employee in the finance team, the court heard.
In March 2019, Mr Syn handed Tan his iBanking token for a company bank account and instructed her to make certain fund transfers.
When Mr Syn later asked for the token back, she did not do so, claiming she had forgotten to bring it to the office.
EMBEZZLED S$1.46 MILLION IN A MATTER OF MONTHS
Between April 2019 and June 2019, Tan used the token on 174 occasions, misappropriating a total of S$1.46 million.
She lost about S$1.1 million in a love scam to her online "boyfriend".
The scammer, identified as Fred Cheong in court documents, had asked Tan to transfer money to third parties, so that a purported parcel containing US$800,000 detained by Malaysian authorities could be released and given to Tan.
Tan spent the remainder on the money she embezzled on personal expenses such as debt payments and luxury goods.
Around Jun 13, 2019, Mr Syn became worried as Tan repeatedly failed to return the token to him. He called the bank to check on the status of the account and discovered the crime.
TRIED TO OBSTRUCT JUSTICE
Tan was remanded at Police Cantonment Complex Regional Lock Up on Jun 20, 2019, while investigations were ongoing.
At about 4pm, Commercial Affairs Department officers allowed Tan to use her mobile phone on compassionate grounds, so she could arrange for her daughter's childcare plans.
Tan then sent a WhatsApp message to her landlord, identified in court documents as Liew Chwee Jen.
She told her: "If anyone ask I transfer u money juz say I lend from u dun say is rental". She did so as she wanted to conceal the fact that she was paying rental to Liew, and that she kept gold jewellery and luxury bags from her criminal proceeds at Liew's unit, the court heard.
Tan deleted the message thereafter. CAD recorded a statement from Liew the next day, and Liew lied that she did not recall receiving money from Tan.
However, the officers later found Tan's message to Liew on Liew's phone, and Liew admitted that she had been receiving rental from Tan.
That same day, Tan gave a statement to CAD, claiming that she had sold off all the jewellery and bags she had bought. CAD officers found the items in Tan's rented unit and seized the luxury goods.
Tan did not make any restitution.
The prosecution sought six years and seven months' jail, noting that a loss of S$1.2 million remains unmitigated, after considering the value of the seized goods.
Tan's modus operandi involved planning and premeditation, said the prosecutor, as she had to transfer funds between two bank accounts belonging to the company.
She did so 174 times, and spent the money on herself. The scam transfers were also done in the belief that her "boyfriend" would give her the purportedly detained US$800,000, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Foo Shi Hao.
For criminal breach of trust as a servant, she could have been jailed up to 15 years and fined.
For obstructing the course of justice, she could have been jailed up to seven years and fined.
For giving false information to the police, she could have been jailed up to a year, fined up to S$5,000, or both.