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Filipina claims frame-up by employer in $100k ring theft case

31 December 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The verdict on the alleged ring theft will be known on Jan 28 in Eastern Court

A Filipina helper accused of stealing a $100,000 tourmaline ring of her new employer in Stanley insisted in her trial in Eastern Court on Thursday, Dec 31, that there was no ring in her luggage which she packed before going to bed at dawn on Sept 9.

L. Narcelles, 35, said she was shocked to find the ring among miscellaneous items that she poured on the dining room floor when her Chinese employer Chua E-fong demanded to see the bag’s contents.

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CCTV footage played back in the court on Dec 24 showed the defendant, who worked for just two weeks in Chua’s house in Regalia Bay, kneeling on the floor with the ring and other items in her palm as Chua stood by pointing to her palm.

When asked by the defense lawyer about the objects on her hand, she said they were a nail-cutter, a nipper and the ring. Asked later how she came to know the ring was valued at $100,000, she said it was what the prosecution told her and what the receipt showed.

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The lawyer brought up the helper’s Whatsapp messages on the evening of Sept 8 to her former employer, Portia Cheung, after being told by Chua to leave that same night.

“I will go back to your home, Ma’am, if it’s okay,” Narcelles said in a message the lawyer had provided the court presided over by Magistrate David Cheung.

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Asked if she would stay with her former employer after the luggage check, she said yes.

She sent another message to Cheung at 12:59pm on Sept 9, when Chua checked her luggage. “Ma’am, there is a ring in my hand but I didn’t get anything,” she messaged.

When the lawyer asked if there was no ring in her luggage when she packed, she said yes.

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The prosecutor said there were two inconsistencies in the defendant’s statements. First, when asked whether she had planned to leave her job before she was terminated, the helper replied no. But a message she sent on Sept 7 to Cheung said she planned to leave if she found a new employer. 

The helper explained that she planned to leave if Chua continued to find fault in her work. But she added she was new and that she and Chua were just in a period of adjustment.

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The second supposed inconsistency was the helper’s initial statement that her four co-workers only watched when she was packing her luggage. But later, when the prosecutor asked her whether her co-workers helped her pack, she said one of them did.

The prosecutor pointed out the defendant was trying to put back the ring in the white paper bag when she saw Chua rushing to her side when the ring rolled out on the floor.

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She said the defendant also tried to block Chua’s view when the ring fell to the floor by trying to cover it with her feet and by positioning her foot in a manner that would block the employer’s view of the ring. Narcelles disagreed.

The helper also disagreed when the prosecutor tried to make her admit that she made up the story about somebody putting the ring in her luggage; that she was framed up by Chua; and that she lied to her former employer when she said there was no ring in her luggage.

The last to give evidence was the former employer, Cheung, who said Narcelles was an honest and good employee. Cheung, a Korean company director, said she used to have two helpers as she had five dogs and was living in a big village house.

When the oldest dog died and the Hong Kong economy weakened, she decided not to renew Narcelles’ contract when it expired Aug 24 this year because of the financial strain of having two helpers. But she was happy with the defendant’s performance.

Magistrate Cheung said he will give his verdict on Jan 28 and ordered Narcelles remanded in custody in the meantime.

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