Accounts clerk forged cheques to embezzle more than $1m from car rental company

SINGAPORE - With just an erasable pen, an accounts clerk regularly forged cheques at her company, and siphoned away a total of $1.093 million for herself before she was caught.

For 4½ years, Mariam Ahmad, 58, would prepare fake cheques for her company, LH Car Rental, using a pen with erasable ink.

After getting her boss, Mr Law Kok Leng, to sign off on it, she would then erase the names of the payees and put her own name instead in permanent ink.

But Mariam was eventually caught when the bank alerted her boss of an incomplete cheque which had her name on it.

On Friday (Dec 21), she was jailed for eight years and 10 months, after she pleaded guilty to 30 charges of forgery and concealing the benefits of her criminal conduct.

Another 277 related charges were taken into account during sentencing.

The court heard Mariam had discovered that there was a lack of checks and balances in the issuance and signing of the company cheques soon after she started working at the company in Ang Mo Kio in April 2010.

She hatched her plan to prepare fake cheques in December that year, and carried out her first forgery in January, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim.

She would deposit the cheques into her own Maybank bank account and would occasionally transfer money over to her daughter's account, said DPP Lim.

"She was afraid that Mr Law or the company would find out about her embezzlement of the company's moneys, since her Maybank bank account was used to receive her monthly salary from the company," noted DPP Lim.

In 2012, she even opened a new bank account to deposit the stolen money, he added.

Mariam, who is divorced, used her ill-gotten gains to pay her bills, rent three cars from the company, go on family vacations, buy furniture and give an allowance to her two daughters.

She also bought gold jewellery for her family and 4-D tickets with the money.

But her misdeeds were uncovered in August 2015 when the bank alerted Mr Law of a cheque with Mariam's name that had not been filled in properly.

Mr Law then checked the company's accounts and discovered Mariam's transgressions, said DPP Lim.

No restitution has been made and all the money has been "dissipated", he added, noting that Mariam had less than $50 in both her bank accounts.

There was no money in her daughter's account.

In his submissions, DPP Lim called for Mariam to be jailed for eight years and six months.

Among other aggravating factors, she had caused massive harm to the company, and the offences had taken place over a lengthy period, said DPP Lim.

Mariam, who was unrepresented, pleaded for leniency.

But District Judge Terence Tay dismissed her pleas and raised the proposed sentence by another four months.

On top of all her aggravating factors, she had spent the money on non-necessities, he noted.

For forging the bank cheques, Mariam could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.