Woman siphoned $1.3m from 2 firms to claim parcel from scammer

Handcuffs (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Eager to receive a parcel shipped from a love interest, a woman embezzled more than $1.3 million from two companies to secure the parcel.

Liew Bee Yee, 43, was jailed for six years on Wednesday (10 March), after she pleaded guilty to one amalgamated charge of criminal breach of trust as a servant between August and October 2019.

At the time of the offences, she worked as an accounts manager for McCoy and iConnexion Asia, both of which were related companies involved in the trading of electronic products.

The companies are currently facing legal action from Western Union after Liew took loans from their Western Union business accounts and transferred the monies to her personal account.

Liew's lawyers Genith Lim and Simon Tan characterised their client as a "simple, naive and unsophisticated lady" who fell prey to a scam due to her trusting nature.

While Liew had a partner, the single woman fell in love with a person who scammed her and was "blindsided" by him, her lawyers say.

Liew had been employed by McCoy for about a decade and was promoted to accounts manager in 2015. She was entrusted with the firm's bank account.

In August 2019, Liew befriended a friend known to her as “Benjamin” online, and they began chatting on WhatsApp.

Benjamin later asked Liew to be his girlfriend, but the woman rejected him, claiming she was attached. Benjamin later claimed that he was a pilot and promised to send her a parcel from Paris containing gifts and monies.

Liew initially declined the parcel but became curious and allowed for the parcel to be delivered to her office's premises.

On 26 August 2019, Liew was contacted by another person known as “Kian”. Kian told her that he was from a company known as “Open Wings Global Express Service” and that she had a parcel from Benjamin.

Kian asked her to make payment as the parcel was overweight. To do so, Liew withdrew $3,600 and deposited the amount to an account provided by Kian. She then learned from him that she would receive a parcel containing cash amounting to EUR370,000 (S$592,603).

"Upon learning of this, the accused felt happy and became greedy that she would receive EUR370,000 in the parcel," the prosecution said. Benjamin later told the accused that there were other branded items and jewellery in the parcel.

On 27 August 2019, Kian told Liew that she had to pay further sums for "taxes and other expenses" for the parcel to arrive in Singapore.

While speaking to Kian on the phone, Liew thought that his voice sounded like Benjamin's. She confronted Benjamin about this, but was assured that Benjamin and Kian were two different people.

She started siphoning monies from her companies' bank accounts to pay for what Kian claimed was "insurance" or "storage".

In order to avoid detection, she transferred monies to various other intermediate bank accounts first, before transferring them to her personal bank account. She included a fake purpose in the details of the transactions to mask their true purpose. She would then withdraw the cash.

Between 26 August and 9 October 2019, Liew misappropriated $1,302,900 from McCoy and iConnexion.

While the director of iConnexion was on an overseas trip he received a call from Western Union asking for repayments for credit drawn by iConnexion.

The director said that iConnexion did not borrow any money and then contacted Liew to check on the matter. Liew claimed that it was a misunderstanding and that she would settle the issue. She believed that the monies could be repaid to the companies once she received the parcel.

When the director returned to Singapore on 1 October 2019, he received another call from Western Union and was informed that the monies had been transferred to Liew's personal bank account.

The director confronted Liew the next day and she admitted that she had misappropriated monies from the company for unauthorised purposes.

The director lodged a police report on 14 October 2019 after it became clear that Liew could not repay the sums, and that she had misappropriated more than she had initially admitted.

For committing criminal breach of trust as a servant, Liew could have been jailed up to 15 years and fined.

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