Woman guilty of misappropriating more than $1 million from her company

File photo of Singapore’s currency. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

A payroll manager has pleaded guilty to siphoning more than $1 million from her company to gamble at the casinos and pay off her gambling debts.

The prosecution is pushing for a sentence of at least eight years’ jail for Singaporean Pu Choon Choon, 51, as she is a “recalcitrant offender”.

Pu was employed in DYNA-MAC Holdings, an offshore marine engineering firm, since July 2015. She was in charge of processing monthly salaries for the staff and handling the company’s banking facilities with DBS Bank. She began misappropriating from her company soon after she started work in July 2015.

On Friday (28 July), Pu was convicted of one count of criminal breach of trust as an entrusted clerk or servant, with another similar charge to be taken into consideration for sentencing.

In slightly over a year of working in the company, Pu misappropriated a total of $1,029,357.46. No restitution has been made by Pu. The primary mode of misappropriation was the company’s Timesoft system, to which Pu had exclusive access. The system facilitates salary payments for staff.

Pu would alter her salary details by including allowances that were not subject to deductions by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) or tax, such as transport and training reimbursements. She was not entitled to these allowances.

Pu chose these allowances as they would not affect her CPF contribution or total tax payable income, which would have alerted the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore of her actions.

In addition, Pu reactivated the profiles of two former employees in the system and edited their profiles so that their salaries would be credited to an account she chose. Afterwards, Pu would include their names in the consolidated payroll listing of the company’s staff to send to DBS.

She would alter the consolidated payroll listings before printing it out for the approval of the key officers of the company. Her alterations include deleting her inflated salary. After her company’s key officers gave their approval, DBS would process the pay-outs from the company’s bank account according to the payroll listing.

Once payments had been made, Pu would cancel the changes she made in the system by removing the bonuses or allowances which she had added to her salary and by deactivating the former employees’ profiles in the system. Unbeknownst to Pu, these changes were recorded in an audit trail function.

In August 2016, Pu also filled her own name as the payee on an uncrossed cheque from her company’s DBS account.

On two occasions in May and September 2016, Pu also received $464.50 and $2036.20 from the company’s human resource manager, who recovered the amounts from employees who had resigned on short notice. Instead of banking the money into the company’s account, Pu misappropriated the money.

Pu’s deeds came to light after she resigned from the company in August 2016. Her misappropriations were exposed when a full inspection was carried out on the accounts after her replacement payroll manager was unable to reconcile the differences in the July 2016 payroll.

According to the prosecution, Pu used part of the money to gamble at the Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands casinos. She used the rest to repay gambling debts which she owed to a friend and unlicensed moneylenders.

Pu was represented by lawyer T.M Sinnadurai, who described the prosecution’s proposed jail term as “excessive” and “crushing”. He sought a five-year jail term instead.

However Deputy Public Prosecutor David Koh said that Pu showed a “strong propensity towards dishonest means for self enrichment” due to her previous offences of cheating and forgery, which she was jailed three years and six weeks for.

Pu is expected to be sentenced on 7 August. For committing criminal breach of trust as an entrusted clerk or servant, Pu faces a maximum jail term of 15 years and/or a fine.