Payroll manager jailed for stealing $1m to fund gambling habit

A payroll manager who swiped $1.03 million from her employer to feed a gambling problem was yesterday jailed for seven years and three months.

Pu Choon Choon, 50, had pleaded guilty on July 28 to one count of misappropriating $1 million while working as a payroll manager for DYNA-MAC Holdings between September 2015 and last August. A similar charge involving $28,797 was considered for sentencing. The company, which is based in Jurong, builds offshore platforms and oil and gas plants.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh said Pu, whose job included processing staff salaries, and another payroll executive were the only ones who had access to the company's payroll system.

Pu would alter her salary details by including allowances that would not affect her contribution to the Central Provident Fund or payable tax, such as transport or training reimbursements. She was not entitled to such allowances.DPP Koh said this ensured there would be no changes in her total taxable income, which might otherwise be detected by the tax authority or the firm. The total salary she was rightfully entitled to during the period was $61,470.

Pu also reactivated and changed the profiles of two former employees in the system so that their salaries would be credited to an account of her choosing. She would generate the consolidated payroll listing of all staff and send it to a bank, then alter the listing before printing it out for approval by the firm. Once the salaries had been paid, Pu would cancel the changes she had made. But all these changes were recorded in the payroll system's audit trail.

DPP Koh said the offences came to light only after Pu resigned last August. When the new payroll manager could not reconcile the differences in a payroll, a full inspection of the accounts was carried out.

Pu used the money to gamble at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands casinos. She also used the money to repay a debt to a friend, and to pay unlicensed moneylenders from whom she had taken loans to fund her gambling habit. She had convictions for cheating in 2004 and forgery in 2005.

Pleading for leniency, her lawyer T.M. Sinnadurai said Pu, who has two grown-up children, has resolved to break her gambling habit. She could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined for criminal breach of trust as a servant.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'Payroll manager jailed for stealing $1m to fund gambling habit'. Print Edition | Subscribe