DPP asks for at least 2 years' jail for former head of department who misappropriated over $40k

Maslinda Zainal was found guilty of two counts of criminal breach of trust on Jan 11. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The prosecution has argued for the former head of department (HOD) of English and literature at Woodgrove Secondary School to be jailed at least two years for misappropriating more than $40,000.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew told a district court on Wednesday (Feb 24) that Maslinda Zainal, now 46, had abused the trust placed in her and that her offences were "motivated by greed".

Appointed HOD in 2006, four years after joining the school, Maslinda had kept for herself a portion of the monies students gave to their English teachers for learning materials known as Excel packages.

She was found guilty of two counts of criminal breach of trust on Jan 11.

Her lawyer, Mr Singa Retnam, on Wednesday pleaded for his client to be given a sentence that is not "crushing", describing Maslinda as an outstanding teacher who had received awards, including one for excellent service in 2011.

As HOD, Maslinda was tasked to collect the money students gave to their English teachers. She also 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," deputy public prosecutors Chew and David Koh had said during the trial last month.

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

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

The teacher, who has been suspended by her school, 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.

Madam Chan then asked Madam Cheng to provide her with a copy of the invoices.

Although the bookshop operator was initially reluctant, saying Maslinda had told her not to hand them over to Madam Chan, she eventually did.

The school's vice-principals were alerted and the matter was escalated to the principal. After an investigation, the police were contacted on April 17, 2017, and Maslinda was a arrested later that day.

She will be sentenced on March 5.

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