Jail for woman who misappropriated nearly $340,000 from employer

SINGAPORE - An administrative executive of a property management firm misappropriated nearly $340,000 over three years from tenants' season parking fees and other payments such as rent and utilities.

Soh Huay Ching, 37, who worked for Chua Chuan Leong Contractors, was sentenced to three years and four months' jail on Monday (Jan 21), after she pleaded guilty to one count of criminal breach of trust linked to more than $320,000.

Two other similar charges involving the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

Soh committed the offences between January 2012 and November 2014.

She was tasked to collect rent and utility fees from tenants as well as maintain the season parking at Goldbell Tower in Scotts Road.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei told District Judge Luke Tan that the maintenance of season parking included allocating lots and collecting the annual fees of $2,880 from tenants who own vehicles.

DPP Tan said: "The company's policy is not to offer season parking to non-tenants of Goldbell Tower. The accused went against this policy and sold season parking to non-tenants without authorisation.

"She collected fees from these persons and misappropriated them for her personal use, instead of handing them over to the company."

In 2014, Soh sold season parking spaces to 45 vehicle owners who were non-tenants and issued them official company invoices so as not to arouse their suspicion. She collected nearly $134,000 in all.

She also misappropriated monies for items such as rent and utilities. She said she needed money to pay her credit card bills and debts from loansharks. She has since made about $7,500 in restitution,

Her illegal activities came to light when she went on maternity leave in October 2014 and her colleagues discovered discrepancies in areas such as the collection of rental payments. A police report was made in November that year.

In early 2015, Soh's employer received complaints that non-tenants were parking at Goldbell Tower. The non-tenants told the company that they had paid Soh for the season parking spaces.

Some of them lodged claims against the firm at the Small Claims Tribunals to seek recovery of their unconsumed parking fees. All 45 affected vehicle owners were given their refunds.

On Monday, DPP Tan urged the court to sentence Soh to at least three years and four months' jail, stressing that she had attempted to evade detection by forging documents, such as letters from her employer.

Defence lawyer T.M. Sinnadurai pleaded for a lenient sentence, saying his client committed the offences in a moment of folly.

Soh was offered bail of $45,000 and ordered to surrender herself at the State Courts on Feb 15 to begin serving her sentence.