Clinic manager jailed 21 months for stealing more than $120,000 from employer

Claudia Chua Hui Peng was jailed for illegally taking more than $120,000 from her employer in one year.
Claudia Chua Hui Peng was jailed for illegally taking more than $120,000 from her employer in one year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A clinic manager entrusted with collecting payments from patients, keeping accounts, and depositing cash into the clinic's back account unlawfully pocketed more than $120,000 from her employer in one year.

Claudia Chua Hui Peng, 38, used the cash to pay off her car loan, her domestic helper's salary, her household expenses and her husband's debts to banks, licensed moneylenders and loansharks.

On Tuesday (Sept 13), Chua was jailed for 21 months after she pleaded guilty to one charge of criminal breach of trust as a servant.

A district court heard that she worked for Chris Chong Clinic, an obstetrics and gynaecology clinic, in Gleneagles Hospital.

Between January and December 2013, she siphoned off $123,422 from the clinic using two methods.

When a patient opted to pay in cash, she would put the money aside. At the end of the work day, she would edit the consultation item and/or medication purchased and the corresponding sum collected in the computer system used for keeping accounts. Chua would then pocket the difference.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, she would hand over all cash sales proceeds to her employer, Dr Christopher Chong Yew Luen, who would then entrust her to deposit the money into the clinic's bank account.

But Chua would later change the date and time settings in the clinic's computer in order to edit the entries in the bookeeping system, such that the accounts reflected a lower sum collected. She would then pocket the difference.

Chua's misdeeds were discovered when a patient came to the clinic for a follow-up in December 2013, but the accounting system did not have her details.

The patient had purchased a full antenatal package and paid for it in cash, and this was supposed to have shown up on the system.

Dr Chong confronted Chua, who owned up to her crimes, the court heard.

He allowed her a grace period to make full repayment of the misappropriated sum by April 15, 2014, but Chua was not able to and surrendered herself to the police on April 14, 2014.

She has paid back $1,000 to the clinic.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Lim Kah Hwee asked for 22 to 24 months' jail.

Defence lawyer Jason Goh, meanwhile, asked for not more than 20 months in prison.

Mr Goh said Chua started work as an administrative assistant in October 2005 with a gross monthly salary of $1,500 and this was eventually increased to $2,000.

Her husband became involved in football betting in 2012 and he resorted to taking loans from unlicensed moneylenders.

Chua, who is is the sole breadwinner of the family, felt compelled to comply with his demands for money, lest her family be harassed by loansharks, he added.

The maximum punishment for criminal breach of trust as a servant is 15 years' jail and a fine.