Ex-legal secretary jailed 40 months for forging cheques and falsifying accounts

SINGAPORE - A former legal secretary who misappropriated $489,200 over seven years was sentenced to 40 months' jail on Wednesday for forgery and falsification of accounts.

Noriza Aziz, 44, was employed by AsiaLegal at Robinson Road when she committed 209 offences between December 2006 and May 2013.

She has since paid back $379,800 to the firm.

She pleaded guilty to 30 counts of cheque forgery and nine of falsifying accounts.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Chew Xin Ying said her offences came to light in May 2013 when one of the directors of the firm found a few payment vouchers on her table.

An internal investigation was carried out after the firm found that the cheques issued were suspicious.

Noriza lodged a police report on May 22 that year admitting to having misappropriated about $500,000 from AsiaLegal.

The court heard that after getting proper authorization of vouchers and signatures on the cheques from the director, Noriza altered them by adding numbers and words to inflate the amount.

She would deliberately leave a space in front of the original words and numbers so she could later make unauthorised additions, the court heard.

To escape detection, she first destroyed the payment vouchers and later falsified payment vouchers to support the inflated amounts. She then forged the director's signature on the falsified payment vouchers and submitted them to the firm's bookkeeper.

Her lawyer Louis Joseph said in mitigation that the mother of two was extremely remorseful and had learnt a painful lesson from her misdeeds.

She could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined for each count of forgery. For falsifying accounts, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years and/or fined.