SINGAPORE — For six years, a man in charge of an elderly woman's trading accounts embezzled her money by wrongfully cashing in her cheques.
Whenever the 87-year-old woman asked Tan Chee Lok to sell her shares, Tan would deposit some money to create the false impression that she was gaining money in her account.
He continued the sham even after he resigned from his company for losing money there, misappropriating a total of $128,305.82 from 2010 to 2016.
Tan’s acts went undetected until the 87-year-old woman’s son checked his mother’s trading accounts activities.
Tan, 66, was jailed for 15 months and four weeks on Tuesday (18 May) after he pleaded guilty to two out of six charges of criminal breach of trust as an agent, and one charge of committing criminal breach of trust. The remaining charges were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
Victim had no educational qualification
The Singaporean worked as a remisier with Lim & Tan Securities, where he was responsible for servicing trading accounts maintained by clients and carrying out their share orders. He would obtain commission from every transaction.
The victim, now 87, is a housewife with no educational qualification.
From 19 January 2010 to 26 November 2015, the victim handed over and entrusted Tan with blank cheques which were pre-signed with her signature. When she wished to buy shares, she would call Tan and Tan claimed that he would help her fill out the amount on the cheque and use it to pay for the share purchases.
Instead of carrying out her orders however, Tan would encash the cheques and deposit the money into his own bank accounts. He then used the money for his own expenses.
To avoid detection, whenever the woman wished to sell the shares, Tan would deposit some money into her bank account to maintain appearances that her orders were being carried out.
He used her cheques to withdraw money 54 times between 2010 to 2015. Tan resigned from his firm on 1 June 2016 as he kept losing money. However he did not tell the woman he had resigned, instead he collected another cheque from the victim and withdrew $1,002.80 from her bank account. He lied to her that he was with his company part-time.
In total, between 19 January 2010 to 31 October 2016, Tan siphoned $128,305.82 from the victim’s bank account. As part of his scheme to maintain appearances, he deposited $87,847.13 into her account from 4 February 2010 to 30 November 2016.
On 2 May 2019, a police report was lodged after the victim’s son learned about the scam. The son, a lawyer, had approached Tan’s firm to check on his mother’s trading account as she was setting up her will in 2019.
Upon completing their checks, the firm informed the son that her last trade was on 14 April 2010. The son was shocked as he knew that his mother had been issuing cheques to purchase shares up until 2016, according to Deputy Public Prosecutor Hidayat Amir.
Tan has since made full restitution of the leftover sum – $40,458.69 – to the victim.
Tan fully co-operated with police: defence lawyer
DPP Hidayat Amir described Tan's conduct as "deliberate and sustained", pointing out that the victim was vulnerable due to her age and her lack of formal education. Tan had also tried to evade detection by depositing money into her account and lied that he was still with L&T even after he stopped working there.
Tan's lawyer, Han Hean Juan said that simply taking the victim's age and low level of education was not enough as proof of her vulnerability. He said that more evidence had to be submitted which may take the form of any mental illness, or mental deterioration.
He said that Tan had fully cooperated with the police and sought 12 months and two weeks' jail.
For committing criminal breach of trust as an agent, Tan could have been jailed for life, or up to 20 years, or fined. For committing criminal breach of trust, he could have been jailed up to seven years, and/or fined.
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