Production leader stole $944k worth of gold pellets

A production line leader who stole about $944,000 worth of gold pellets from his employer over five months was jailed for seven years yesterday.

Malaysian Wong Boon Keong, 30, faced 79 charges, and pleaded guilty to 10 counts of theft and nine counts of money laundering involving $242,551.

Wong worked at Philips Lumileds, a division of electronics giant Philips, which manufactures light emitting diodes (LEDs).

To make these, pure gold in the form of pellets is melted down and deposited onto wafer surfaces through an evaporation process in a machine. Each bottle, costing some $24,000, has 90 pellets weighing 3.7g each.

Production line leaders such as Wong would ask for the pellets from their supervisor, and store the gold in a secured lock box on the production floor in the company's facility at Yishun Avenue 7.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kung Yong Jin said Wong stole a bottle from the lock box during his lunch break on June 14 last year, and put it in his car.

The production supervisor on duty checked against the records that day and noticed numerous discrepancies in logs relating to the use and movement of the bottles of gold pellets.

Altogether, Wong had stolen pellets on 41 occasions. When confronted, he admitted to the thefts. The management reported him to the police three days later.

Investigations showed that in February last year, the production line leader devised a plan to steal the gold pellets from Philips and hide them in his car before he returned to work.

He falsified records in the database to give the impression that the pellets had been used by him in the manufacturing process.

He would typically take not more than 90 pellets a day, and then drive back to his home in Johor Baru with the stolen items.

He sold the gold pellets at various pawnshops and used the money to pay his debts, said Mr Kung.

The Deputy Public Prosecutor said a stiff sentence was called for in view of the numerous charges and the significant amount of money involved, as well as the repeated pattern of offences and Wong's abuse of trust and authority.

Mr Kung said that only RM70,000 (S$27,237), a negligible amount of the total, had been recovered from the culprit.

District Judge Lim Tse Haw agreed that a deterrent sentence was called for in view of the aggravating factors. He backdated Wong's sentence to June 19 last year.

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