Jailed for cheating welfare home residents

Ex-senior staff of Tembusu Home took $220,476 from victims' bank accounts using ATM cards, PINs

Chiang Zhao Xiang, 31, was jailed for 30 months yesterday after pleading guilty to criminal breach of trust.
Chiang Zhao Xiang, 31, was jailed for 30 months yesterday after pleading guilty to criminal breach of trust.

A senior employee of a welfare home deceived seven residents into entrusting their ATM cards and personal identification numbers to him for safekeeping.

The former assistant superintendent of the Tembusu Home at Pelangi Village in Buangkok Green, Chiang Zhao Xiang, now 31, later abused their trust by illegally accessing their bank accounts.

He misappropriated $220,476 through 169 unauthorised transactions, taking between $8,240 and $99,120 from each victim.

Chiang, who was employed at the home from December 2010 to January 2015, was jailed for 30 months yesterday after pleading guilty to criminal breach of trust.

Two counts of cheating two of his seven victims of a total of $32,000 in cash were taken into consideration during sentencing.

Chiang committed the offences between May 2014 and January 2015. Six of his victims were mentally ill, the court heard. Two have since died, with the others now between 53 and 67 years old.

Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh said Chiang was the most senior staff member at the home after the superintendent.

DPP Koh added: "He selected seven residents in particular as he observed that they had substantial sums of money in their bank accounts in comparison to other residents, and that they seldom paid visits to the bank."

On various occasions in 2014, he took six of the residents separately from the home to a POSB Bank branch without telling anyone.

He told his victims he was taking them to obtain ATM cards so that they could have easy access to their accounts.

They later handed him their ATM cards without question.

DPP Koh told District Judge Siva Shanmugam that Chiang also obtained their PINs.

He kept the ATM cards in his possession.

In July 2014, he found the seventh man's ATM card in his office and decided to pocket that as well.

To cover his tracks, Chiang kept his victims' bank books on him instead of putting them in an office cupboard, where they would normally be kept.

Whenever he was asked for the books, he would give excuses for retaining them.

His offences came to light when he eventually handed over five of the bank books to a colleague after repeated requests in December 2014.

The withdrawals of large sums of money were discovered and he finally came clean on Jan 12, 2015, when confronted.

Chiang's mother helped him make full restitution to the men a week later and the police were notified on Feb 5 that year.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the Ministry of Social and Family Development said it has directed the home to implement measures to strengthen safekeeping of residents' property.

The home has implemented measures such as strengthening administration and processes regarding staff access to residents' property, and conducting regular savings passbook checks for all residents on top of existing checks made after routine withdrawals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2017, with the headline 'Jailed for cheating welfare home residents'. Subscribe