8 months’ jail for Samsung Electronics worker who stole phones worth $61k from employer

SINGAPORE – Plagued with financial trouble, a Samsung Electronics employee borrowed money from unlicensed moneylenders.

When the illegal loans started to snowball, he hatched a plan to steal mobile phones from his employer and resell them.

Tan Jia Wei, 33, was sentenced to eight months’ jail last Friday after he pleaded guilty to a theft charge.

State Prosecuting Officer (SPO) Ting Nge Kong said Tan was employed by Samsung Electronics as a mobile trainer in December 2021. His duties included training staff how to use Samsung mobile products, and he earned a monthly salary of $5,300.

In February 2022, he ran into financial problems and started borrowing money from unlicensed moneylenders. It was not mentioned in court why Tan had financial trouble.

By July that year, the illegal loans had snowballed to $30,000, and Tan was constantly harassed by the unlicensed moneylenders though messages and calls. He then came up with the idea to steal from his employer.

That month, Tan saw a colleague place an access tag, which could be used to open a storeroom, in the top drawer of an unlocked cabinet.

A few days later, he used the access tag to enter the storeroom and stole about 20 mobile phones.

After work that day, he took the phones to a second-hand shop either in Ang Mo Kio or Toa Payoh, and sold them for about $550 to $650 each, said SPO Ting.

“Emboldened by this, the accused continued stealing... phones on at least five other occasions between July 2022 and August 2022,” he added.

In total, Tan stole phones with a combined value of at least $61,200. After each theft, he sold the phones either online or at second-hand phone shops.

His actions were uncovered on Aug 10, 2022, when a staff member at Samsung Electronics did a stock check and found numerous mobile phones missing from the storeroom.

It was estimated that 289 mobile phones were missing. As the number of phones in the storeroom had not been documented, the actual number of missing phones could not be ascertained, said SPO Ting.

Tan was arrested on Nov 8, 2022, and has made full restitution of the $61,200 to the company.

In mitigation, Tan told the court he was remorseful for what he did, adding: “I was faced with a very big financial issue and I didn’t know what to do back then... I was afraid the creditors would also harass my family.”

District Judge Christopher Goh said Tan had abused the trust of his employer as he had stolen the items on multiple occasions, and noted this as an aggravating factor during sentencing.

Those who steal from an employer in the capacity of a clerk or servant can be jailed for up to seven years and fined.

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