21-year-old woman jailed for misappropriating almost $390,000 from company in 8 months

Ellise Teo pleaded guilty last month to committing criminal breach of trust between Sept 30, 2015 and May 19, last year. PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A former shipping clerk in a logistics company was jailed for three years and three months on Wednesday (Sept 13) for misappropriating close to $390,000 from the firm in just eight months.

Malaysian Ellise Teo was only 21 years old when she siphoned off the money from UBTS, which deals with the transportation of containers.

Now 22 years old, she pleaded guilty last month to committing criminal breach of trust between Sept 30, 2015 and May 19, last year. The amount she misappropriated was $388,711.61.

Assistant Public Prosecutor Thiagesh Sukumaran said Teo joined the company on July 13, 2015 and was tasked to assist an officer from the accounts department two months later. The department handles claims by drivers who had used their own funds for expenses incurred while operating container lorries. It also handles advance salary claims from employees.

Employees who ask for advance salaries must obtain approval from UBTS' managing director. He will then sign a payment voucher to approve the amount to be disbursed.

Teo had been tasked to process these payments and soon started using different methods to siphon off the money.

APP Thiagesh told District Judge Lorraine Ho: "The accused would obtain amounts that had been paid to employees seeking reimbursement.

"For example, if the employee claimed $300, the accused would amend the amount to $1,300 and misappropriate the difference of $1,000."

Teo also obtained the managing director's signature on payment vouchers to deceive the finance department into believing that employees were seeking advance salaries even though they did not.

She would then pocket the amount stated on the payment voucher.

Besides these, Teo also created vouchers which duplicated payments that had already been made to employees before keeping the money for herself.

She used some of her ill-gotten gains to buy a brand new Toyota Vios car in Malaysia worth RM85,000 (about S$27,000) and luxury goods from Chanel worth $9,437.86.

Teo had made no restitution and APP Thiagesh said there is no information on what she had done with the remaining monies.

She was caught after the company's finance department conducted an audit in March last year and an executive uncovered several discrepancies.

They include duplicate payment vouchers and payment vouchers disbursing funds to employees which they denied receiving.

APP Thiagesh pressed for a jail sentence of 3-1/2 years and told the judge that Teo's scheme was "calculated and devious".

Her lawyer, Mr Wilson Foo, who was assigned to the case under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, pleaded for a jail term of less than three years.

He told Judge Ho that his client is young and that she is "a filial child who had gone down the wrong path".

For criminal breach of trust, Teo could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.

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