SINGAPORE - A former secretary who misappropriated a total of $1.3 million and forged her boss' signature on cheques over four years was jailed for 12 years on Friday (Oct 14).
Lim Hoon Choo, 62, who faced four criminal breach of trust and 10 forgery charges, pleaded guilty to misappropriating $387,423 in 2012 and $548,309 in 2013, as well as five counts of forgery.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Jun Hong, who described her as a "recalcitrant offender" and "seasoned criminal", said this was Lim's fourth spate of offending.
Despite having been jailed for nine years in 1999 for similar offences, this has not deterred her from re-offending, he said.
DPP Tan said Lim began working for one of the family companies of Mr Ng Eng Ghee, Saffron Bistro, in April 2008. Mr Ng is the patriarch of a family business called New Asian Capital (NAC).
Lim's duties at NAC, where she worked alone in a Jalan Sultan office, included issuing cheques on behalf of the company and Mr Ng to pay for various expenses.
Lim began forging cheques sometime in February 2010 by signing Mr Ng's signature which she had practised. The cheques were made out to her name "Lim Hoon Choo" but she was known to her bosses as Eve.
DPP Tan said to cover her tracks, she would doctor bank statements and cheque book stubs, such as reflecting payments to herself as "credit card payments", or by indicating that the amounts disbursed were smaller than the actual amounts so as not to arouse suspicion.
From February 2010 to September 2012, at least 218 cheques were forged, and $1.3 million misappropriated from her employer. Partial restitution of $141,920 has been made.
Lim claimed that she gambled away the remaining money at casinos in Malaysia.
DPP Tan said her acts were clearly deliberate and pre-meditated.
Her offences had gone unnoticed for four years as Lim had made efforts to conceal them, he said.
Lim's lawyer Benjamin Frois said Lim committed the offences to get back at her employer for misusing her. He claimed that Lim was sent on a "risky business" assignment in which she travelled to Johor to interview a potential driver, and that she was looked down for not being a graduate.
District Judge Low Wee Ping noted from her criminal record that she committed her first criminal breach of trust offence when she was 29 and given eight months' jail. Five years later, she committed eight criminal breach of trust and 14 cheating offences.
At the age of 45, she was convicted of 12 forgery charges with 470 other similar charges taken into consideration. The amount involved was $3.1 million, of which she made restitution of about $250,000. The court had heard then that she bought a BMW and spent lavishly on family and friends.
Judge Low, who found no mitigating factor whatsoever in her case, backdated her sentence to Jan 21, 2016.
She could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined for each of the charges.