A Hong San Temple accountant with gambling problem, that used erasable pen to issue S$207,000 in cheques to herself, gets jail-time.
google view of Hong San Temple
A woman, Li Fanfang, who worked as the only administrative clerk and accountant at a temple in Singapore, became addicted to gambling, and was reported to be visiting the casino almost daily, during the period of committing the crime in 2019.
In order to fund her gambling vice, Li started using erasable pen to get signatories to sign off on cheques issued to vendors, before rubbing out the vendors’ names and putting in her own.
She started out with small amounts, knowing that the temple did not allow large amounts of money to be disbursed.
Between Apr 27, 2019, and Mar 10, 2020, Li addressed cheques payable to legitimate vendors, using the erasable pen. After obtaining signatures from the authorised signatories, she would erase the names of the vendors and fill in her own name.
On a few occasions, she persuaded unwitting family members to allow their names to be used, to avoid suspicion.
Li did so on 16 occasions, defrauding the temple of S$207,234 that she gambled away, playing baccarat at the Marina Bay Sands casino. Casino records showed that she entered on an almost daily basis, during that period.
About the Defendant
Li, 32, who is a China national, had been living in Singapore for more than 10 years and was married to a Singaporean man, whom she had a son with.
She worked for the Hong San Temple Association in Defu Lane for S$2,000 a month, as an administrative clerk and accountant. She was in charge of receiving donations and keeping the books and was entrusted with the temple’s cheque book.
The temple funds came from public donations.
In order to disburse funds from the temple, signatures from signatories at the temple was required, hence her use of erasable pen to avoid detection.
No one at the temple suspected anything or verified the payments as they trusted Li.
Aftermath and Judgment
On Mar 10, 2020, feeling overwhelmed with guilt, Li wrote a letter to the temple staff, informing them of her crime, though she failed to specify amount in the letter.
She asked for forgiveness and said she could only return S$1,000 a month. She left the letter at the temple and fled Singapore, for Hong Kong.
One of the temple signatories lodged a police report, the same day that he found the letter.
She eventually returned to Singapore, and in late March 2020, turned herself in to the police. She pleaded guilty to one count of forging valuable securities, by altering the payees of 16 signed cheques, with a total value of S$207,234.
The judge after hearing the arguments from both prosecutor and defense attorney, acknowledged that Li was a first-time offender and had pleaded guilty, however, the judge said he could not ignore the fact that a very substantial amount of money was involved.
The Judge also noted that the offence was committed against a temple, with the funds comprising of donations from the public, and there was no restitution from the offender.
Li was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, on Thursday, Feb 16, 2023.
Source: Channel news Asia