SINGAPORE — A serial cheat who was working as a senior manager at Soup Restaurant decided to take advantage of a weakness in his company’s account reporting process to cheat his employer of more than S$920,000 over seven years.
He did so by setting up three fake companies to act as the restaurant’s suppliers for kitchen goods.
Chan Chee Hung, 51, pleaded guilty on Friday (Oct 20) to six counts of cheating and one count of theft, and was sentenced to 81 months’ jail, which is equivalent to six years and nine months.
Another 15 similar offences were taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that Chan was employed as the manager of the central kitchen in the Soup Restaurant and was promoted to senior manager in May 2006 before being appointed to the same role at Soup Restaurant’s subsidiary, Sure Food.
At all times, Chan oversaw the sourcing and procuring of supplies for Soup Restaurant’s central kitchen.
Under the company’s procurement process, when it purchased goods, the corresponding sales invoice will need to be verified by the employee who ordered the goods and another employee who had received and checked the goods.
Then, the invoice would be submitted to the company’s account department, which would process the invoice and issue the payment.
According to its website, Soup Restaurant has 10 outlets named after the company across Singapore and a host of other eateries under other brands.
In March 2004, Chan instructed his wife to register a business called Uni-Vac, intending to use it to sell kitchen goods such as packaging materials to the central kitchen of Soup Restaurant.
Chan initially used Uni-Vac to purchase kitchen goods from suppliers and resell them to Soup Restaurant at a higher price.
After realising that kitchen goods were considered “disposables” and their inventory was not audited, Chan developed a new scheme to take advantage of this accounting weakness.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Louis Ngia said that Chan would create a fake invoice bearing Uni-Vac’s letterhead and forge the signatures of his two subordinates to make it appear as if they had each ordered and received the goods respectively.
He would then deliver the fake invoice to an accounts executive who would disburse the invoiced sum to Chan’s company. Chan would use the money for personal or family expenses.
To expand the scope of his scheme, Chan registered two other businesses under his family members’ names to evade detection.
Using the three companies in his fraudulent scheme, Chan cheated his employer of a total of S$922,314.74 between January 2006 and February 2013.
The company’s chief financial officer reported Chan to the police in June 2013. Court documents did not state how the company came to know about his cheating.
Chan made S$10,000 in restitution to his company after his actions were uncovered but has not made any other restitution since.
THEFT OF CASHCARDS
On Nov 6, 2020, Chan stole a cashcard valued at S$152.50 from a car’s in-vehicle unit (IU) after he was entrusted the vehicle by its owner who had engaged Chan’s valet service. He was then working as a valet driver at Marina Bay Sands hotel.
Chan continued to commit theft of cashcards by visiting car parks in Singapore.
He would attempt to open the doors of cars and when he found an unlocked car, he would reach in and remove the cashcard from its IU.
Chan had on 10 occasions between January and March 2022 committed theft of cashcards amounting to a total value of at least S$609.36.
RECEIVING SCAM PROCEEDS
In January 2020, Chan befriended a woman known as “Elizabeth Maria Boyd” whom he allegedly entered into a romantic relationship with after she left Singapore for the United States.
The two kept in contact through messages where the woman told Chan that she needed his help to receive money for her bag business in Singapore.
The woman stated that she needed him to receive money into his bank account and then transmit the money via Bitcoin cryptocurrency to a digital wallet she purportedly controlled.
Chan agreed and the two entered into an agreement where he could retain a sum as commission each time he provided the service.
Between May 29 and July 27, 2020, Chan assisted the woman in the transaction on at least three occasions.
Investigations later revealed that at least S$6,000 of the transferred money were proceeds of scam.
Seeking a sentence of between 83 and 90 months’ jail, DPP Ngia said that Chan is a serial cheat who had repeatedly executed his criminal scheme across seven years, cheating his employer of more than S$920,000.
Even though his offences were reported and under investigation, Chan remained undeterred as he went on to commit other theft offences, added DPP Ngia.
The prosecution did not say why Chan was charged with cheating Soup Restaurant only some 10 years after he was reported to the police.
Urging the court for a lighter sentence of not more than five years, defence lawyer Jeeva Arul Joethy, who represented Chan, said that Chan has had a difficult life. Even though Chan has committed a slew of offences, he did so to help his family, the lawyer added.
In delivering the sentence of 81 months’ jail, District Judge Ronald Gwee said that the case is rather significant as Chan had cheated his employer on at least 108 occasions over a span of seven years.
District Judge Gwee added that even if there were any sympathy to be given to Chan’s situation, it would quickly be diminished by him taking advantage of the company’s weaknesses for a lengthy period.
For each cheating charge, Chan could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.
For theft, Chan could have been jailed up to three years or fined, or both.