Former UOB officer jailed for misappropriating more than $500,000 of client's money

Bentley Lee Chang Yeh, now 37,  committed most of his offences after leaving UOB but remained in contact with his ex-client.
Bentley Lee Chang Yeh, now 37, committed most of his offences after leaving UOB but remained in contact with his ex-client.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A former United Overseas Bank (UOB) officer was sentenced on Wednesday (Nov 15) to four years and nine months' jail after misappropriating almost $525,000 belonging to one of the bank's clients.

Bentley Lee Chang Yeh, now 37, was also fined $50,000 after he pleaded guilty in August to two charges of criminal breach of trust involving about $405,000, and one count of conducting fund management business without holding a Capital Markets Services licence.

Another charge of criminal breach of trust involving about $120,000 was considered in sentencing.

Lee committed most of his crimes after leaving UOB, but remained in contact with his victim.

Lee had started out as a UOB personal banker in 2005. After becoming a relationship manager there three years later, he got to know his victim, retiree David Seah Joo Seng, 69.

Lee became a home loan specialist for the bank in 2009.

On May 21 that year, he registered a firm known as United Overseas Investment Management (UOIM)- which is not affiliated to UOB - under his mother's name.

He did this as he wanted to set up his own business in investment and shares, and foreign exchange for extra income. He resigned from the bank in January 2010 to manage UOIM full time.

Even though Lee's mother was named as UOIM's sole proprietor, she had no part to play in the firm. Lee, who was solely responsible for managing its business, de-registered it in September 2010.

In January 2012, he set up Lee & Lee FX Capital, a sole proprietorship under his own name to continue his business of investing in shares and foreign exchange. It ceased operating in April 2013.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Grace Goh said that between April 2009 and January 2013, on Lee's recommendation, Mr Seah and his wife Mary Gomes invested almost $773,000 into 12 capital-guaranteed investment notes issued by either UOIM or Lee & Lee.

"These notes promised guaranteed monthly returns ranging between 1 per cent and 10 per cent with tenures ranging from one month to five years. Funds raised from these notes were to be used for investment purposes," she added.

On May 12, 2009, Mr Seah agreed to invest about $473,000 and a cashier's order for the amount was deposited into UOIM's bank account.

However, Lee used only about one-quarter of the money to invest. He used the remaining sum for his own expenses and by December 2010, only about $652 was left in UOIM's bank account.

He misappropriated an additional $170,000 of Mr Seah's money in 2011 after the retiree entrusted him with more cash.

When Mr Seah did not get back his money when his investments matured, he alerted the police on Jan 8, 2014.

DPP Goh said that this case involved a large sum of money and urged the court to sentence Lee to at least five years' jail and a fine of $50,000.

His lawyer Irving Choh pleaded for a two-year jail sentence, saying that Mr Seah had obtained a partial restitution of $100,000.

Lee, who was offered bail of $200,000, will be appealing against his sentence.

For each count of criminal breach of trust, he could have been jailed for up to 20 years and fined.