Accountant siphoned $2m from two firms

Using false vouchers, Yeo Yong Heng deceived the man authorised to sign cheques for two firms for over six years.
Using false vouchers, Yeo Yong Heng deceived the man authorised to sign cheques for two firms for over six years.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

He pleads guilty to 250 charges, including cheating, CBT and money laundering

An accountant who siphoned more than $2 million from two firms he was working for was found out only when the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) became aware of suspicious transactions.

Using false payment vouchers, Yeo Yong Heng, 53, deceived the man authorised to sign the companies' cheques for over six years.

The Singaporean pleaded guilty in court on Thursday to 250 charges, including cheating, criminal breach of trust and money laundering. A whopping 616 other charges will be considered during sentencing.

Yeo worked for Steel Industries from 1996 to 2013 and Malaysia-based S. I. Stainless from 2011 to 2013. One of the directors of Steel Industries, Singaporean Ong Soon Liong, also ran S. I. Stainless, the court heard. Deputy Public Prosecutor Stacey Fernandez said Steel Industries had three banks accounts with Mr Ong as its sole authorised signatory.

In 2013, CAD launched an investigation after receiving a suspicious transaction report linked to Yeo's bank, stating that at least 26 cheques issued by Steel Industries for over $300,000 in total were deposited into his accounts between October 2012 and March that year.

He was entrusted with cheque books from the three banks and his job included preparing cheques and payment vouchers and collecting payments on behalf of Steel Industries. But between Dec 29, 2006 and June 22, 2013, he duped Mr Ong into issuing cheques from Steel Industries for purported company-related expenses and advances made by the firm to other parties.

He used cheques bearing fictitious payments and supported his deception by showing false payment vouchers.

"Yeo thus deceived Ong into believing that the amounts stated in the cheques were for legitimate expenses incurred by, and advances to be made by Steel Industries," said DPP Fernandez. "Yeo thereby dishonestly induced Ong to authorise payments of the amounts indicated in the cheques, and to deliver these signed cheques to Yeo."

He used the same ruse on S. I. Stainless as well.

Yeo bought shares, a Toyota Wish car and two apartments - in Amber Road and Jalan Dusun near Balestier Road - with the monies. He has since made a full restitution after selling the two properties.

DPP Fernandez urged District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan to sentence Yeo to four years' jail, adding: "Other like-minded persons should know that such blatant abuse of a position of trust, and relentless reaching into their employer's coffers to pursue personal gain, will be dealt with harshly."

Defence lawyer Vincent Yeoh pleaded for Yeo to be sentenced to a year and eight months in jail, stressing that his methods were "crude" and not difficult to detect. Yeo, who is no longer employed by the firms, is out on bail of $40,000 and will be sentenced on Feb 13.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2019, with the headline 'Accountant siphoned $2m from two firms'. Print Edition | Subscribe