A Filipino maid's thefts of her employer's belongings were discovered only when she was to return home after her mother died.
While retrieving Michelle Maloom Abucay's passport from the safe at home, Ms Lee Hooi Wen, 43, and her husband discovered personal items and cash totalling about $25,000 missing.
The thefts were discovered on Oct 26 last year, the day before Abucay was to leave for home.
When Ms Lee's husband opened the safe, he discovered an assortment of jewellery and some foreign currencies missing.
After Ms Lee was alerted, she searched the wardrobe in the master bedroom, and discovered that a Louis Vuitton sling bag, five branded wallets, a black Chanel handbag and a brown Coach bag, worth a total of $15,000, were also missing.
After an unsuccessful search, they called the police, who arrested Abucay.
Investigations showed that the maid started stealing the wallets and bags when she was alone at her employer's home in Riviera Drive, off Upper East Coast Road, in September last year. Using a key she found in the wardrobe, Abucay opened the safe and took RM2,000 (S$640) and gold jewellery.
She later passed the jewellery to another domestic worker, and sought her help to sell them, claiming they were gifts from her employer. But the items were not sold and Abucay kept them at home instead. They were later recovered, along with RM1,400.
She stole again some time in the first week of October, taking four gold items and two handbags from the safe and wardrobe respectively. She met another Filipino maid on her day off and, this time, her friend managed to sell the items for $2,300 at MoneyMax in Lucky Plaza.
In the second week of October, Abucay stole more jewellery from the safe, and hid them in a rice container in the kitchen.
Of the $25,384 worth of items stolen, items and cash amounting to $10,332 were not recovered.
Her lawyer, Criminal Legal Aid Scheme Fellow Sherrie Han, said in mitigation that Abucay was remorseful and had acted out of genuine financial hardship.
When she received news of her mother's death, she tried to return some items taken from the safe as she no longer had need to pay for her mother's medical treatment, Ms Han said.
Yesterday, District Judge Low Wee Ping sentenced Abucay to eight months' jail on three counts of theft as a servant. He backdated her sentence to March 30 and took into consideration four other charges.
Abucay could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined on each charge of theft as a servant.