Ex-church transport supervisor gets 16 weeks' jail for criminal breach of trust of $37,000

Pang Khang Foo embezzled a total of about $37,000 from the Christian Gospel Mission. PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A long-time employee of a church who was facing financial difficulties because of his gambling addiction resorted to misappropriating money belonging to the church.

Pang Khang Foo, 43, who was a board member and transport supervisor at Christian Gospel Mission, embezzled a total of about $37,000 from the church at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 1 between 2014 and 2016.

On Wednesday (Sept 13), he was sentenced to 16 weeks' jail after he admitted to one charge of misappropriating $15,203 with two other similar charges involving $14,139 and $7,689 taken into consideration during his sentencing.

Pang, now an Uber driver, was allowed by District Judge Samuel Chua to start his sentence on Oct 4. He is out on $15,000 bail.

Deputy Public Prosecutor V. Jesudevan said that Pang was in charge of organising and maintaining the church's three buses that were used to ferry kindergarten children.

He was thus entrusted with church funds to pay the transport operator for their services and any related maintenance works required.

The offences came to light in August 2016 when the pastor and chairman of Christian Gospel Mission discovered some accounting discrepancies while checking through the church's account records.

When confronted, Pang admitted to embezzling church funds.

In or around 2013, Pang claimed to have financial difficulties which arose because of his gambling addiction.

Subsequently, he devised a means to misappropriate money belonging to the church.

He would either inflate the amounts due to the operator or raise fictitious invoices, then present them to the church's finance department to raise the requisite voucher which he would approve.

After the cheque was issued, he would re-approach the finance department and claim that he had gotten the name of the payee wrong.

The finance department would make the necessary change and countersign the cheque.

When he received the amended cheque, Pang would strike out the payee's name and replace it with his own. He would bank the cheque into his account, encash it, pay the operator for its service, and pocket the excess, if any.

Using this modus, he misappropriated about $37,000 from the church. He has made full restitution.

In mitigation, Pang's lawyer Ashwin Ganapathy said Pang had problems paying for his children's education and household expenses sometime in 2012. He invested in stocks and bonds and lost huge sums of money.

"He then decided foolishly to embark on gambling . He naively thought that by gambling, he would win back the money that he suffered from the investments," said the lawyer.

He gambled at casinos, bought 4D and Toto tickets, and gradually became addicted to gambling.

Mr Ashwin said his client deeply regrets his actions and has apologised to the board. Pang has completed a gambling addiction recovery group counselling course and was invited to serve as a volunteer to help other gambling addicts, he added.

Pang could have been jailed for up to seven years and/or fined for criminal breach of trust.

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