Woffles Wu’s ex-staff jailed for embezzlement
By Angela Lim – December 24th, 2010
A former employee at Dr Wu’s clinic is jailed for misappropriating S$111,713.
For nearly eight years, Teresa Wong, a clinic cashier for renowned plastic surgeon Dr Woffles Wu, had been collecting payments from his clients at Camden Medical Clinic.
In that time, no one guessed that she was pocketing over S$111,000 from the client’s payments.
On Thursday, Wong, 49, was jailed one year and three months for committing criminal breach of trust (CBT) of S$111,713 between March 2004 and October 2008, according to a Straits Times report.
Wong moved to Singapore from Hong Kong in 1996 with her two children and joined Singapore General Hospital (SGH) as an assistant nurse. She then joined Woffles Wu Aesthetic & Laser Centre as a receptionist-cum-cashier in October 2000.
By March 2004, Wong had found a loophole in how the clinic did its accounts.
She had noticed the invoice booklets used by the clinic were purchased from stationery shops. Each invoice was in triplicate – the white copy went to the client, the pink one was put in the client’s patient file, and the blue filed for audit purposes.
Wong’s crime spree began when she bought similar booklets with the same serial numbers.
When clients made payments with cash, she would write them a receipt from her own invoice booklet with the correct amount. She would then fill up the clinic’s invoice booklet with an underdeclared amount, and pocket the difference.
Alternatively, she would issue invoices from the clinic’s booklet, but throw away the pink and blue copies and replace these wth the same coloured copies from her booklet, indicating lower amounts.
She was sacked on October 18,2008 after her crime was discovered, and the police were notified. Court documents revealed that she misappropriated amounts of between S$20 and S$1,900.
Defence counsel A.P. Thirumurthy pleaded for a jail term of one year, stating that Wong was suffering from kidney ailments and psychiatric illness. She was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder with depressed mood as a result of being found out.
She could have been jailed up to seven years and fined for each of the two CBT offences she pleaded guilty to. Four similar charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.
Mr Thirumurthy revealed that she only began embezzling the money because she was facing difficulties paying the family expenses and her 14-year-old son’s school fees. The divorcee also has an elder daughter who lives in Hong Kong.
However, Deputy Public Prosecutor Adrian Ooi argued for a stiffer sentence, saying that no restitution has been made.
District Judge Jill Tan said the court could not ignore the large amount Wong misappropriated, and how the offences were committed over an extended period of time.
Wong, who limped into the courtroom wearing a neck brace, grimaced upon receiving the sentence.
Dr Wu, who was a plastic surgeon in SGH and left in 2000 for private practice, told the paper that the episode made him “very distressed and depressed”. He revealed that he hired Wong because he considered her one of the better workers.
“At my clinic, she would often stay on after everyone had left. I thought she was very hardworking, but she was probably staying back to carry out her crime,” he said.
Her theft was discovered when a colleague noticed that the colour of the blue copy of an invoice did not match other blue copies.
Dr Wu said, “Teresa confessed and I gave her another chance but she went back to stealing from me after only one day.”
He added that within three months after the clinic reported her to the police, Wong went to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Ministry of Health and the Singapore Medical Council, complaining that he had not allowed her to go on medical leave since 2003.
He denied this, saying, “When the MOM called me, I explained that if she still had the medical certificates, she could not have applied for medical leave. Our system was to file away the medical certificate as proof that an employee was ill.”
Dr Wu also said that a few of his patients had told him they had seen Wong wining and dining in fancy restaurants with her boyfriend. “To me, that was her personal life; then I found out she was living it up with my money.”
He has since implemented safeguards in the clinic’s accounts.