Ex-car salesman jailed for taking $400k from firm and customers to fuel his gambling habit

Tan Sze Hian was working as a sales executive for Subaru distributor Motor Image Singapore when he convinced car buyers to write out cheques to himself, instead of the company.
Tan Sze Hian was working as a sales executive for Subaru distributor Motor Image Singapore when he convinced car buyers to write out cheques to himself, instead of the company.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - A car salesman siphoned off more than $400,000 from his customers and employer to fuel his gambling habit.

Tan Sze Hian, 44, was working as a sales executive for Subaru distributor Motor Image Singapore when he convinced car buyers to write out cheques to himself, instead of the company.

He also offered to help some customers sell their vehicles in his personal capacity - but kept the proceeds for himself.

Tan was sentenced to 3½ years' jail on Tuesday (June 18) after pleading guilty to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving nearly $370,000.

Four other charges linked to the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

He began working with the company, based in Leng Kee Road near Commonwealth Avenue, in 2012 and was tasked with serving walk-in customers who were looking to buy new cars.

His job scope also included preparing the necessary sales documentation and he was entrusted with collecting payments from them.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Angela Ang said purchases would usually be partially funded by a bank loan or a used car trade-in, and some customers would write cheques to pay off their outstanding balance.

But instead of following the company's standard policy of writing a crossed cheque, "the accused would instruct these customers to pay the outstanding balance to him by way of a cash cheque, on the representation that he would thereafter transfer the payment to Motor Image".

Tan misappropriated nearly $346,000 between Sept 30 and Nov 8, 2017.

DPP Ang said Tan would also convince Motor Image customers to sell their old cars through him to obtain a "more profitable deal".

One victim bought a new Subaru Forester from Motor Image in September 2017.

The customer agreed to hand over his old Honda Civic to Tan who promised to sell it for $25,000. Tan managed to sell it for $27,000 - then pocketed the proceeds.

His offences came to light when customers started hounding him.

He later came clean about what he had done to his general manager, who alerted the firm's director. A police report was made on Dec 22, 2017.

 

On Tuesday, DPP Ang urged the court to sentence Tan to 3½ years' jail, stressing that he had made no restitution.

Defence lawyer Henry Lim, who was assigned to the case under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, told the court that his client "deeply regrets the day he stepped into a casino", adding: "Looking back in profound remorse, he knows he has no one to blame but himself."

For misappropriating the firm's money, Tan could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.