Legal secretary siphons off almost $500,000 of company's money over 7 years

Legal secretary siphons off almost $500,000 of company's money over 7 years

Her bosses trusted her with their money, but she betrayed them by siphoning off nearly $500,000 from them over seven years.

When she realised they were investigating the matter, she made a police report against herself for stealing.

Noriza Aziz, 44, was a legal secretary at AsiaLegal LLC for nearly 11 years. Her job included consolidating vouchers, issuing invoices and cheques.

Whenever there were firm expenses to be paid, she would pay out of her own pocket and then make out company cheques - supported by payment vouchers - to herself.

When claiming payment, she would take the cheques to Mr P. Jeya Putra, a director at AsiaLegal, who would sign off on the cheques and vouchers.

But in December 2006, she started to leave a space in front of the amount written down so that after the cheques had been signed, she could add words and numbers in front, inflating the amount to be paid out.

To cover her tracks, she destroyed the payment vouchers that Mr Putra had signed and made out new ones to match the new amounts on her cheque. She would also forge Mr Putra's signature on these vouchers.

When the amount was larger, such as paying the court for stamp duties, she would create fictitious invoices on the electronic filing system of both the Supreme Court and what was then the Subordinate Court.

This was so the receipts would match and the firm's bookkeeper would not question her.

For example, on May 14, 2007, Noriza paid $347.10 for the company's stamp duties and needed to be reimbursed. When she prepared a cheque, she put $347.10 on the cheque and payment voucher.

After they were signed by Mr Putra, she added "4" and "four thousand" to the amount, making it $4,347.10.

She did this between December 2006 and May 2013.

Noriza's actions went undetected until May 13, 2013, when another of the company's directors spotted several payment vouchers on Noriza's desk and told Mr Putra about it.

After verifying the cheques with the bank, Mr Putra found it suspicious and confronted Noriza about it, telling her that the firm would investigate.

REPORT

Just over a week later, Noriza lodged a police report admitting to the crime.

She has since repaid $379,800. She took $489,200. The amounts she misappropriated ranged from around $3,100 to $4,500.

Noriza was slapped with 209 charges, including 161 counts of forgery of a valuable security or will and 48 charges of falsification of accounts.

She was yesterday jailed 40 months.

In mitigation, defence lawyer Louis Joseph of Regent Law said his client is a married mother of two and had surrendered herself even before the results of the internal investigation were revealed.

During sentencing, District Judge Low Wee Ping said there were several aggravating factors in Noriza's case: the amount she took and the fact that the crime went on for seven years.

Mr Joseph applied for the sentence to be deferred for Noriza to sort out personal matters. Judge Low agreed and Noriza's sentence will begin on June 10.


This article was first published on May 14, 2015.
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