She took $123k from clinic to pay off husband's debts
Clinic manager gets 21 months' jail for criminal breach of trust involving $123k
She was entrusted with collecting payments and maintaining the clinic's accounts.
But Claudia Chua Hui Peng, a former manager of Chris Ong Clinic at Gleneagles Hospital, did misappropriated $123,422 from the clinic instead.
Yesterday, Chua, 38, was found guilty of taking the clinic's money between January and December 2013 and was sentenced to 21 months' jail.
District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said he accepted "lack of personal gain" as one of the factors for consideration during Chua's sentencing.
Defence lawyer Jason Goh had argued that the bulk of the money his client had misappropriated was used to pay her husband's gambling debts.
Chua had resorted to her crimes because she feared loan sharks would target her family if she did not help to settle her spouse's debts.
Mr Goh added that Chua's case was unlike other cases where misappropriated money was used for personal benefit by those convicted of criminal breach of trust.
Chua and her husband, who left the family shortly after Chua surrendered to the police in April 2014, have three children aged between five and 19.
FEARED FOR FAMILY
Mr Goh said: "As Claudia (Chua) feared for the safety of her elderly mother and her children who were living with her, whom her husband had informed her would be harassed by loan sharks if his debts were not paid, she felt compelled to comply with her husband's numerous demands for money."
But Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Nicholas Lim argued there were aggravating factors.
DPP Lim, who recommended a jail sentence of between 22 and 24 months, said "a substantial amount of money" had gone missing from the clinic over a one-year period.
He pointed to a large degree of premeditation on Chua's part as she had edited payment accounts. Her crime was also hard to detect and was uncovered only 11 months later.
She had joined the clinic in 2005 and was responsible in collecting payments and maintaining the clinic's accounts.
Chua had used two methods to misappropriate the funds.
When a cash payment was made by a patient, she would keep the money aside. At the end of the day, Chua reflected a smaller amount in the clinic's records.
Alternatively, when it came to depositing cash sales into the clinic's bank account, Chua would edit the time and date entries in the clinic's records and deposit a smaller sum into the account. She would pocket the difference, the court heard.
But in December 2013, the game was up for Chua.
A patient visited the clinic for a follow-up medical check-up, but the clinic had no details of the patient. It was discovered the patient had bought a full antenatal package by paying in cash. But Chua had not entered the transaction into the clinic's account.
Court documents stated that Chua admitted taking the clinic's money to pay monthly instalments of $1,359 for her Honda Stream car worth about $72,000 from May 2013 to January 2014.
The money was also used to pay for a domestic helper, and settle her husband's debts owed to unlicensed and licensed moneylenders and banks.
The clinic's director had given Chua a grace period to make full repayment of the sum misappropriated but she was not able to meet the April 15, 2014 deadline.
During mitigation, her lawyer said Chua was remorseful for her actions and that she has since made partial restitution of $7,119.
Under the law, Chua could have been jailed up to 15 years and fined for criminal breach of trust.
As Claudia (Chua) feared for the safety of her elderly mother and her children who were living with her, whom her husband had informed her would be harassed by loan sharks if his debts were not paid, she felt compelled to comply with her husband's numerous demands for money.
- Defence lawyer Jason Goh