Former PCF kindergarten principal jailed over misappropriation of almost $40,000

SINGAPORE - A former kindergarten principal was sentenced to three months in jail on Thursday over the misappropriation of almost $40,000.

Between September 2009 and October last year, Lee Ooi Chun, 60, used money collected in a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) kindergarten centre in Ang Mo Kio to pay her gambling debts.

She was sentenced after pleading guilty to two of six charges, with the rest taken into consideration.

Lee's job scope as the principal of the kindergarten in Block 319 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 included collecting and banking various fees into the foundation account each month, a district court heard.

But Lee pocketed the money, which included registration, insurance and uniform fees. She did not key in records of collected sums in a bid to escape detection, but held on to acknowledgement receipts from the collections.

Lee was found out following an internal audit in February this year, which uncovered cash shortages in the accounts.

Pleading for leniency, defence lawyer Lee Ee Yang said his client had fully returned the $37,117.60 pocketed. She had committed the offences due to a gambling addiction that landed her in debt, and had also paid off most of the $50,000 she owed, with her husband's help, said Mr Lee. The lawyer added that his client has two children aged 33 and 29, and is seeking counselling for her gambling problem.

District Judge Crystal Ong noted, among other things, that the sum involved was large, and had not been taken on the spur of the moment. A significant degree of trust had been placed in Lee, and others in similar positions needed to be deterred from committing such offences, the judge said.

Lee, now a teacher at an enrichment centre, could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined for each count of criminal breach of trust against her.

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