Owner of baby apparel company jailed for cheating involving over $500,000

Wan Ting Koh
Reporter
Photo from Getty Images

When the companies she owned were in financial distress, she conned investors into pumping money for various business opportunities by lying about their potential.

Chua Li Li, a 42-year-old Singaporean, would then use the funds to pay for the companies’ debt. She would even forge documents to pull off her scam.

On Monday (22 October), Chua was jailed three years and one month after she admitted to five counts of cheating and two counts of criminal breach of trust. Another 17 counts of a similar nature were taken into consideration for sentencing. Her offences involved a total amount of $525,568.37.

She committed the offences between 2009 and 2010, with police investigations beginning in 2010. But she was only charged this year due to a delay in investigations, the court heard.

Chua owned three companies – Elise Enterprise, a supplier of baby apparel, Elise Marketing and Elise Distributor.

Sometime in March 2009, Chua approached investor Cheong Cheng Siong and told him that Elise Enterprise was doing well. Cheong agreed to inject funds into the company as he was convinced by Chua about its business opportunity.

Cheong transferred $111,000 to Chua from August to October 2009. Chua forged documents from NTUC Fairprice, OCBC and Warner Bros Consumer Products to make transactions appear legitimate.

Chua used the money to deal with the financial troubles faced by her other companies and never intended to use the money for the reasons that she had told Cheong, according to the prosecution.

In addition, Chua convinced two other men to join her as co-investors in another baby-product business. The trio incorporated Comfybaby.

In June and July 2010, Chua cheated one of the men, Tan Kok Kheng, out of $162,710 after deceiving him into believing Comfybaby needed money to pay a supplier and repay a loan. Chua again used the money to resolve her companies’ debt.

In 2011, while under police investigations for these offences, Chua embezzled money from a company where she was employed as an account executive.

With the cheques signed by her boss at Beach City Asia, Chua used the money to repay her personal debts and for family expenses. She also encashed cheques addressed to other employees of the company. In total, she misappropriated $25,389.60 at the company and did not make any restitution.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Melissa Ng said that Chua had planned the offences and made efforts to forge documents. The prosecution, however, gave a discount in its proposed sentence due to the delay in investigations.

Seeking a sentence of three years and three months, DPP Ng said the eight-year delay in dealing with the case may have caused stress to Chua.

Chua, who was unrepresented, told the court that the delay had been a “mental torture” as she was worried about the caregiving arrangements for her seven-year-old son.