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Filipina helper jailed 20 months for $543k jewelry theft

25 August 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Only 5 of the 11 expensive jewelry pieces stolen were recovered from various pawnshops (Piaget photo)

A Filipina domestic helper who stole 11 jewelry pieces worth a total of $543,000 from her female employer of 11 years was sentenced to 20 months in jail today, Aug 25, by an Eastern Court magistrate.

Margie Tagulao, 41, pleaded guilty on Aug 11 before Magistrate Bina Chainrai to 11 counts of theft that corresponded to the number of stolen jewelry pieces.

The thefts took place in the house of Tagulao’s female employer, Yuen Lai-ka, on Big Wave Bay Rd between Jan 1, 2019 and June 9 this year. Of the 11 stolen items, five were recovered by the employer from four pawnshops.

Through her lawyer, the Filipina begged for a lenient sentence so she could go home sooner. But Chainrai only gave her the usual one-third discount for her guilty plea.

Despite this, Tagulao could have escaped a stiffer sentence, as the magistrate rejected the prosecution’s earlier bid to move the sentencing to a higher court because of the big amount involved.

The magistrate sentenced the helper to 16 months for the first charge, the theft of a $250,000 Piaget necklace, which was recovered from a pawnshop in Wanchai.

For charges 2, 3, 5, and 7 that corresponded to a diamond brooch worth $20,000, a pair of pearl earrings valued at $30,000; a sapphire necklace valued at $10,000; and a pair of rose pattern earrings worth $3,000, Chainrai imposed a two-month sentence each.
The Eastern magistrate rejected prosecution's application to transfer the case to a higher court

The magistrate imposed a 4-month sentence for charge 6 (a Bulgari necklace worth $10,000 that was recovered); 8 (a necklace with diamond cross pendant worth $3,000, recovered), 9 (a pair of diamond and pearl earrings worth $4,000), and 10 (an 18-karat gold necklace worth $3,000, recovered).

For charge 11 involving a black watch worth $150,000 that was recovered, the magistrate imposed a 7-month sentence.

She then ordered the sentences for charges 1, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 11 to run concurrently and charges 2, 3, 5 and 7 to run consecutively, for a total of 20 months.         

A background report that Chainrai had sought from Tagulao’s court-appointed counsel concluded the defendant committed the offenses out of greed. She had earlier told the court that she used the money from the pawnshops to pay for the repair of her typhoon-damaged home and farm.

The report also stated that the defendant had been distressed by her “unsatisfactory relationship” with her farmer-husband.

Tagulao, who had a clear record, was very repentant, said her lawyer. He added that she wanted to go back home because she had many problems.

When asked by Chainrai if the defendant could offer compensation to her victim, the lawyer said her client had no more money.

Court records show Yuen found her jewelry missing at about 10:30pm on June 9, and immediately called the police. Tagulao was arrested and during investigation she admitted stealing the jewelry from unlocked drawers, and then pawned them.

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