11 years' jail for trusted exec who pocketed $3.2m

A finance manager was trusted by his boss so much that he was given pre-signed cheques to settle payments.

But Gene Chong Soon Hui abused his superior's trust and siphoned about $3.2 million of the firm's money by entering his own name on the cheques before encashing them.

Chong, 44, who committed the offences between 2007 and 2015 while working for O2 Advertising, was yesterday jailed for 11 years.

He started working for the advertising company in 2000 and reported directly to its finance director, Mr Lim Kok Yong, 56.

The court heard that the firm's managing director and chief executive officer were authorised co-signatories for cheques issued to suppliers.

Whenever the CEO went overseas, he would pre-sign some cheques before giving them to Mr Lim so that payments to suppliers were not delayed.

For instance, Chong obtained a pre-signed cheque on Jan 26, 2010 and lied to the firm's managing director that it was for a payment of $64,200 to a photography company. Chong then encashed the cheque after entering his own particulars on it. To cover his tracks, he altered the company's sales revenue records to falsely show increased production costs.

Deputy Public Prosecutor V. Jesudevan said: "Due to a high level of trust placed in the accused, Lim would hand over the pre-signed cheques to the accused whenever he asked for them, without making any checks.

"The accused recognised he could manipulate the trust reposed in him for personal gain. Over time, he created various fictitious transactions for which payments were ostensibly due, when in reality, there was no such payment required."

For instance, Chong obtained a pre-signed cheque on Jan 26, 2010 and lied to the firm's managing director that it was for a payment of $64,200 to a photography company.

Chong then encashed the cheque after entering his own particulars on it. To cover his tracks, he altered the company's sales revenue records to falsely show increased production costs. He also made fake invoices to create the impression that monies were owed to O2 Advertising.

But his employers found out about his offences and the managing director alerted the police in March 2016.

Urging District Judge Luke Tan to jail Chong for at least 12 years, DPP Jesudevan said: "There was significant premeditation on the part of the accused to dishonestly misappropriate monies from the company."

Chong's lawyer Nakoorsha A.K. pleaded for an eight-year jail term. He told the court that his client had serious gambling debts and struggled to make ends meet.

Chong pleaded guilty to 15 cheating charges and five counts of falsifying the company's documents. Another 174 charges for similar offences were considered during sentencing.

Chong has not made any restitution. For each cheating charge, he could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2018, with the headline '11 years' jail for trusted exec who pocketed $3.2m'. Print Edition | Subscribe