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Maid who stole $4,500 in nursery school jailed 16 months

13 August 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Panaguiton entered the victim's office in the school three times to steal money 
A Filipina domestic helper was sentenced to 16 months in prison by a District Court judge after she pleaded guilty this afternoon, Aug 13, to three counts of burglary at the Braemar Hill Nursery School on Tai Hang Road, Jardine’s Lookout.

Mary Joy Panaguiton, 28, admitted before Judge Sham Siu-man charges that she entered the office of the school’s assistant principal on three occasions in October and November last year and stole a total of $4,500.

Sham sentenced the Filipina to 12 months for each of the three charges, with the sentences for the second and third offences running consecutively after the first two months, for a total of 16 months.

The defendant had been in detention since her arrest on Nov. 28 last year, when she trespassed into the assistant principal’s office for the third time, and took two $500 bank notes from her wallet that was in an unlocked cabinet.

The prosecution said the maid arrived at the school that morning with her employer who was the school principal, and took the latter’s two children to their classroom.

The assistant principal arrived at 7:35am and worked in her office, which was off limits to anyone without her permission. At 8:20m, she put her wallet in the cabinet, then left with the door ajar. When she returned to her room at 9:20am, her money was gone.
The victim checked the CCTV footage and saw Panaguiton enter the office, open the cabinet, take the wallet and pull out two $500 bills.

The police were called in.

The victim knew Panaguiton because she took the principal’s two children to the nursery every school day, the prosecution said.

Unknown to the maid, a CCTV system was installed in the victim’s office after the two previous occasions when her money was stolen.

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The first happened on Oct 16 last year, when $2,000 was taken from the victim’s wallet. The second was on Nov. 5 when $1,500 was stolen, also from the wallet.

The defense lawyer said the defendant, a secondary school graduate, came to Hong Kong in 2016 to work for the school principal. She was supporting her parents and a 4-year-old son by her boyfriend who is a construction worker.

For the sentencing, the lawyer cited two previous cases of burglary, one involving a man who entered an office and took a pack of cigarettes. The starting point adopted was 15 months.

In the second case, the defendant also entered an office because the door was ajar. There was no ransacking and a steel cabinet was opened. The starting point was 18 months.

He said in Panaguiton’s case, she walked around the premises after taking the kids to their classroom then saw the assistant principal’s office door was ajar, so she walked in, opened the cabinet and took the money. “It was an opportunity offense,” he said.

Judge Sham asked for a 30-minute break and came back with his sentence.

After the sentencing, the lawyer approached the maid, who was crying, and told her she won’t have to serve the whole sentence as she had been in detention since Nov 28.

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