A school teacher abused his position of trust by stealing a total of $3,350 from two students to repay his debts.
Yesterday, Sandridge Ong Wee Koe, 37, was jailed for six weeks after admitting to stealing $2,050 from 17-year-old Wang Juan at St Francis Methodist School in Upper Bukit Timah Road, on Oct 16 last year. A second charge, involving $1,300 stolen from another student, was taken into consideration.
The court heard that Ong, then a chemistry teacher, had finished his last class for the day and entered a classroom. There was no one there and the lights were turned off. He saw some bags, and took $2,050 from Wang Juan's wallet before placing it back into her bag.
Wang Juan, who has since got back her money, had intended to use the sum to pay her school fees.
Ong had stolen the money to relieve his financial difficulties. He had $6,000 to $7,000 in credit card debts at the time. He had also taken a $3,000 loan from a legal moneylender and used $1,200 of the stolen money to repay the moneylender. He spent the rest on transport and daily expenses.
Ong's lawyer Louis Joseph said his client, who is married, is remorseful for his actions and contrite.
District Judge Kamala Ponnampalam agreed with Deputy Public Prosecutor Patrick Tay that as a teacher, Ong had abused the trust of the students who had left their money and property in the classroom, and did not expect a teacher to pilfer from them. She also agreed with DPP Tay that the amounts involved were not insignificant. Ong, a first-time offender, could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined for theft in dwelling.