Former school department head sentenced to jail for misappropriating over $40k

Maslinda Zainal, a former head of department at Woodgrove Secondary School, was convicted of two counts of criminal breach of trust on Jan 11. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The former head of department (HOD) of English and literature at Woodgrove Secondary School, who misappropriated more than $40,000 of students' monies, was sentenced on Friday (March 5) to 18 months in jail.

After a trial, Maslinda Zainal, now 46, was convicted of two counts of criminal breach of trust on Jan 11.

She joined the school in 2002 and became an HOD four years later.

In their submissions, Deputy Public Prosecutors David Koh and Stephanie Chew had earlier said that she was "an educator of considerable experience".

"In her capacity as HOD, she oversaw the collection of student monies by the teachers in the English department for resource packages and liaised with the bookstore that printed the resource packages.

"The accused was the only one who knew that an excess of monies had been collected from the students - and that what the bookstore was charging was far less than the amounts collected from the students," they added.

Maslinda was entrusted with nearly $35,000 in 2016 and more than $36,000 the following year.

She, however, paid Madam Cheng Bee Lian, who ran the bookshop, about $13,000 in 2016 and $17,000 in 2017, the sums stated in the invoices.

The teacher, who has been suspended, then misappropriated the remaining sum, taking more than $21,000 in 2016 and almost $20,000 in 2017.

Her offences came to light when a subject head at the school, Madam Jacqueline Chan, found discrepancies between the amounts collected by the English department and the sums paid in the bookshop's invoice.

In January 2016, Madam Chan asked Madam Cheng to provide her with a copy of the invoices.

The court heard that Madam Cheng then replied that Maslinda had told her not to hand them over to Madam Chan.

But she later disobeyed Maslinda's instructions and eventually handed them to Madam Chan. The prosecutors said that Madam Chan was "quite shocked" when she saw the actual amounts.

She later informed one of the school's vice-principals and the matter was escalated to the principal. After an investigation, the principal alerted the police on April 17, 2017, and officers arrested Maslinda later that day.

For each count of criminal breach of trust, an offender can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.

The court heard that Maslinda will be appealing against her conviction and sentence. Her bail was set at $30,000 on Friday.

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