A former Woodlands Residents’ Committee (RC) manager was sentenced to three months and six weeks’ jail term for using her position to pocket S$590, as well as for using a photocopy of an identity card she found in the RC office to participate in a mobile phone scam.
Sri Hawa Safiee, 41, was given the sentencing on Monday (28 September) after she pleaded guilty to one charge each of cheating and criminal breach of trust by a servant. Another charge of misappropriating S$2,100 in her position as an RC manager was also taken into consideration.
According to court documents, Sri Hawa met her Member of Parliament (MP) sometime in 2015 as she was having financial difficulties and was jobless. As such, the MP, which was not named in court documents, referred her for a job interview.
She subsequently secured the position and was hired as the RC manager for Woodlands Zone 1.
In her position, Sri Hawa is in charge of handling daily operations, managing courses and activities as well as handling the RC’s financial accounts. If that’s not all, she was also entrusted with cash and cheques paid by residents for courses or events organised by the RC.
In the beginning of August 2015, the RC’s vice-chairman gave Sri Hawa S$500, which is an amount paid by residents for a table booking for the RC’s annual National Day dinner. She was asked to deposit the money into the RC’s bank account and issue a cheque for the same sum to be made payable to the constituency.
However, she did not deposit the case but issued a cheque as instructed. She used the S$500 to spend on her own personal expenses.
This incident repeated again in June 2016 where she spend S$90 that was given to her but meant to be deposited into the RC’s bank account. The sum was paid by residents for a mooncake-making course.
If that’s not all, Sri Hawa also found a photocopy of a woman’s identity card in the RC office sometime before July 2015. The copy of the identity card belonged to a cleaner who used to work under Sri Hawa at the office.
Sri Hawa then decided to use the woman’s personal details to apply for a mobile phone plan. She applied for the plan using a computer at the RC. She registered for a package and received a phone worth S$998, which she used for only a few months before selling it for S$300.
The account, in the victim’s name, accrued debts amounting to S$1,335.45, which then resulted in Singtel recruiting a third-party firm to go after the cleaner. The victim then told her son what happened, and he helped her to file a police report.
Following that, internal investigations by the RC discovered that it was Sri Hawa’s doings and the police were called in.
Additionally, Sri Hawa’s supervisor also found the discrepancies in the bank account and an internal audit was initiated. He lodged a police report and Sri Hawa was fired.
Higher sentencing was asked
Deputy Public Prosecutor Ronald Ang asked for a sentence of four months and four weeks’ jail, reasoning out that the money in the criminal breach of trust offence involved People’s Association funds.
However, her defence lawyer, which was appointed under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, requested for it to be not more than eight weeks’ jail.
He argued that his client did not repeatedly and serially take money. He added that the amount swindled was “relatively low”, at S$590.
Moreover, the defence lawyer stated that Sri Hawa cooperated “right from the outset” with the police and with the RC.
In fact, after four years since committing the offences, she “continues to stay on the straight path”, supporting her family and children, said the lawyer.
The judge noted that he had to consider that Sri Hawa did not make restitution, and agreed with the prosecution that a strong and discouraging message had to be sent for her wrongdoings.
For criminal breach of trust by a servant, she could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined. For cheating, she could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined. The judge allowed her to defer sentence to Oct 12.