Ex-manager jailed for making illegitimate reimbursement claims from Nike

Joanne Cheong Sook Yin misled her employer, Nike, into believing that multiple payouts of about $77,000 were legitimate and was jailed for five months on Monday (May 30).
Joanne Cheong Sook Yin misled her employer, Nike, into believing that multiple payouts of about $77,000 were legitimate and was jailed for five months on Monday (May 30).PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A product presentation manager who misled her employer, Nike, into believing that multiple payouts of about $77,000 were legitimate was jailed for five months on Monday (May 30).

Joanne Cheong Sook Yin, 36, who now works as a freelancer, had pleaded guilty to 22 counts of using the receipts of D3 - a firm which provided design and installation services for Nike's stores - to deceive Nike that the sums in the invoices were incurred only by the firm and its employees which she knew to be false.

Another 132 similar charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

A district court heard that Nike had engaged D3 to attach three external temporary workers to Nike to work on Nike's projects.

These workers remained as D3's employees but provided their services to Nike, which would reimbuse D3 their salaries and the expenses they incurred.

D3 would submit reimbursement claims and invoices to Cheong who made sure they were in order before submitting the invoices to Nike's finance department. The finance department would then disburse the payments to D3.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Norman Yew said Cheong knew that no Nike employee could make such claims from or through D3.

Some time in 2012, she decided to make illegitimate claims from Nike, for herself and two colleagues, by using falsely inflated D3 invoices.

These reimbursements would cover personal expenses that did not pertain to work purposes, taxi and meal expenses, including group overseas trips.

She would collate receipts for the expenses that she and her two colleagues wanted to make claims for, and submit them to D3's owner, Ms Anne Gan Chai Bee, to prepare the falsely inflated invoices. Ms Gan would inflate the firm's invoices by including the amount representing the claims from Cheong and her two colleagues.

After Nike disbursed the funds to D3, Ms Gan was to hand over the share for Cheong and her colleagues ini cash or fund transfer.

Ms Gan agreed to participate in the arrangement proposed by Cheong. Between 2012 and 2014, Cheong submitted 154 falsely inflated invoices to Nike. Ms Gan kept proper records of the receipts received from Cheong and of the sums payable to Cheong and her colleagues.

The offences were uncovered after the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau received information from someone who heard from one of the two Nike colleagues that Cheong had a dubious arrangement with Ms Gan.

Cheong's lawyer S. Balamurugan said his client, who has a five-month-old daughter, had made full restitution. He said she only received $41,150 of the total of $77,546 with the remainder split between her two ex-colleagues from Nike.

Cheong could have been fined up to $100,000 and jailed for up to five years per charge.