6 years' jail for woman who misappropriated more than $1.3m from employers

SINGAPORE - An account manager misappropriated more than $1.3 million of her employers' money in 2019 after scammers duped her into believing that she had to transfer cash to receive parcels which purportedly contained items such as branded goods and jewellery.

Liew Bee Yee embezzled the cash from the companies, McCoy and iConnexion Asia, on 33 occasions over three months from August to October that year.

The 43-year-old Singaporean was sentenced to six years' jail on Wednesday (March 10) after pleading guilty to one count of criminal breach of trust.

The Straits Times understands that she is no longer working for the two related firms, which deal in electronic components.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Emily Koh said that in 2019, Liew met someone online known only as "Benjamin" and the pair started chatting on messaging platform WhatsApp.

Claiming to be a pilot, Benjamin told Liew on Aug 23 that year that she would receive from him a parcel from Paris containing gifts and cash.

The DPP added: "Benjamin gave the accused a tracking number, telling her that there was cash inside, which would be enough for her to pay for the taxes to receive the said parcel."

A man known only as "Kian" contacted Liew three days later claiming to be from a firm called Open Wings Global Express Service.

Kian told her that she had a parcel from Benjamin and asked her to make a payment as it was "overweight".

She withdrew $3,600 from her own savings and deposited the money in Kian's bank account. Soon after, Benjamin told her that she would receive a parcel containing €370,000 (S$590,000) in cash.

Upon hearing this, the court heard that Liew felt happy and "became greedy" at the thought of receiving the money.

The scammers continued to ask Liew for more cash following this incident and she decided to make use of her employers' money to pay them.

Her offences came to light in September 2019 when one of her superiors received a call from money transfer firm Western Union asking for repayments for credit drawn by iConnexion Asia.

He then replied that his firm did not borrow any money and asked Liew to look into the matter.

The DPP said: "She then claimed that that it was a misunderstanding and informed the (director) that it would be settled, as she believed that it could be repaid to the companies once she received the parcels."

The director received another call from Western Union the following month and was told that the monies had been transferred to Liew's personal bank account.

She finally came clean when confronted and the director lodged a police report on Oct 14, 2019.

The court heard that Western Union has begun legal action against McCoy and iConnexion Asia.

Liew has since made partial restitution of $170,000 and the authorities have also seized more than $32,000 in total from Kian's bank accounts. Kian's identity was not stated in court.

On Wednesday, DPP Koh urged the court the sentence Liew to at least seven years' jail and stressed that she had betrayed the trust placed in her.

Defence lawyers Genith Lim and Simon Tan , however, pleaded for five years' jail and said that Liew had not enjoyed any personal benefit.

For committing the offence, she could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.