A court in Hong Kong has slapped the maximum two-year prison sentence against a Filipina domestic helper who forged her former employer’s signature to steal a total of $302,000 (more than Php1.5 million) from him in a span of 14 months.
Ria-Cecilia R. Caguioa, 30, pleaded guilty to 18 counts of theft on Feb. 27 before Eastern court magistrate Garry Tallentire.
Tallentire sentenced her to a 12-month imprisonment on all the charges, but ruled that charges 2 and 3 will run consecutively to all other charges, 4 to 19, for a total of 24 months.
A separate charge of forgery against Caguioa was withdrawn.
According to the charge sheet, on various dates between August 2006 and October last year Caguioa stole a “chose in action” or simply, checks in the HSBC account of her employer, Raymond Chow, a civil servant.
She first denied the offenses when she was arrested, but later entered a guilty plea.
The court heard that twice a month from August to October in 2006, Caguioa successfully deposited checks drawn against her employer’s account amounting to $10,000 and $11,000 to her Bank of Communications account.
In December of the same year, she deposited a total of $40,000 in three separate transactions. Caguioa more than doubled the December transaction from January to April last year by depositing a whopping $85,000.
The amounts increased to $28,000 and $29,000 between August and October. Her last transaction was her biggest at $30,000 on Oct. 25, 2007.
All amounts were withdrawn from her account as soon as the check was cleared.
Caguioa’s employer only found out about these in November when he noticed three suspicious transactions in his HSBC account in the past few months. His inquiry led to a confirmation by HSBC that a total of 31 checks with forged signatures had been drawn from his account with amount totaling to $367,000.
These have been paid into Caguioa’s account between August 2006 and October 2007. But upon legal advice, Caguioa was only charged with theft of $302,000.
Tallentire said in court that Caguioa’s acts were not done out of a momentary temptation or greed, but were malicious and vicious.
Smiley D. Julve