Clinic manager stole over $120,000 from employer

A clinic manager entrusted with collecting payments from patients and keeping accounts stole more than $120,000 from her employer in one year.

Claudia Chua Hui Peng, 38, used the cash to pay off her car loan, her maid's salary, her household expenses, as well as her husband's debts to banks, licensed moneylenders and loan sharks.

Yesterday, she was jailed for 21 months after pleading guilty to one charge of criminal breach of trust as a servant.

A District Court heard that she worked for Chris Chong Clinic, an obstetrics and gynaecology clinic at Gleneagles Hospital.

Between January and December 2013, she siphoned off $123,422 from the clinic using two methods.

When a patient opted to pay in cash, she would put the money aside. At the end of the work day, she would edit the consultation item and/or medication purchased as well as the corresponding sum collected in the computer system used for keeping accounts. She would then pocket the difference.

When a patient opted to pay in cash, she would put the money aside. At the end of the work day, she would edit the consultation item and/or medication purchased as well as the corresponding sum collected in the computer system used for keeping accounts. She would then pocket the difference.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, she would hand over all cash sales proceeds to her employer, Dr Christopher Chong Yew Luen, who would then entrust her with depositing the money into the clinic's bank account.

But Chua would later change the date and time settings in the clinic's computer in order to edit the entries in the bookkeeping system, so that the accounts reflected a lower sum collected. She would then pocket the difference.

Chua's scam was discovered when a patient went to the clinic for a follow-up in December 2013, but the accounting system did not have her details.

The patient had purchased a full antenatal package and paid for it in cash, and this was supposed to have shown up in the system.

Dr Chong confronted Chua, who owned up to her deeds, the court heard. He allowed her a grace period to make full repayment of the misappropriated sum by April 15, 2014, but Chua could not meet the deadline and surrendered herself to the police on April 14.

She has since paid back $1,000.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim Kah Hwee asked for 22 to 24 months' jail for Chua. Defence lawyer Jason Goh asked for not more than 20 months.

Mr Goh said Chua started work as an administrative assistant in October 2005 with a gross monthly salary of $1,500 and this was eventually increased to $2,000.

Her husband got involved in football betting in 2012 and resorted to taking loans from moneylenders.

Chua, who is the sole breadwinner of the family, felt compelled to comply with his demands for money to prevent her family from being harassed by loan sharks.

The maximum penalty for criminal breach of trust as a servant is 15 years' jail and a fine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Clinic manager stole over $120,000 from employer'. Print Edition | Subscribe