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Filipina jailed for stealing $163k by forging employer’s signature on checks

11 December 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Jara was ordered jailed by a Kwun Tong magistrate

A Filipina domestic helper was jailed for nine months Friday, Dec 11, for stealing nearly $163,000 from her employer’s bank account over seven months more than three years ago, by faking the victim’s signature on 53 checks, and for overstaying her visa.

The defendant, Joralyn G. Jara, 37, single, was sentenced by Kwun Tong Magistrate Minnie Wat, after she pleaded guilty to a charge of theft and another for overstaying in Hong Kong for more than a year.

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The prosecution said the theft happened between Dec 14, 2016 and July 6, 2017 while Jara was a domestic helper of the victim, Leung Shu-yan, and her family at Fu Ning Garden in Tseung Kwan O. The family hired her in 2010.

Leung had a Hang Seng Bank integrated account from which she paid the helper $2,000 by check every two months for her traveling expenses. Jara’s monthly salary of $4,320 was paid in cash by Leung’s husband and younger brother.

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Leung kept her checkbooks in an unlocked drawer in the living room, and would sometimes ask Jara to take them out  for her to issue checks for her daughter’s Spanish tuition, utility bills, and the helper’s travel expenses.

On or about July 18, 2017, Leung saw 16 suspicious withdrawals by check in her June bank statement at frequent intervals, and suspected Jara was stealing from her.

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In her bank statements for December 2016 to July 2017, Leung saw $162,950 was withdrawn from her account in 53 check transactions.

Jara was arrested at HK airport in August 2017

The case was reported and Jara was arrested on Aug 8, 2017 at Hong Kong International Airport as she returned from the Philippines. She did not give any statement.

Pindutin para sa detalye

But the next day, she said in a statement her salary was paid in cash by Leung’s husband and that Leung would give her 3-5 checks of around $2,000 each every month for the household’s daily expenses.

She admitted she knew where the checkbooks were kept and would use checks to take cash or deposit them in her own bank account.

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Photocopies of the 53 checks were obtained from Hang Seng Bank, and when asked about them, Jara could only point out to one check cashed on Dec 14, 2016 which she said was issued by Leung to pay for her daughter’s Spanish lesson.

A government chemist was asked to compare Jara’s signature samples with 78 signatures on the back of the 53 checks and the expert concluded they were similar with 74 of them.


Pindutin para sa detalye

Jara was charged on Sept 10 this year with theft and freed on bail, but was told to appear again in Kwun Tong Court on Sept 18.

But on Sept 17, the Immigration Department informed police that Jara had applied for an extension of her visitor’s visa extension but was found to have overstayed since May 4, 2019. She surrendered to the Tseung Kwan O police and was arrested for breach of condition of stay.

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During a police interview, she admitted to having failed to apply for a visa extension since because she had no money and had lost her passport in July 2018.

In mitigation, the defense lawyer said Jara was forced to steal because she had helped friends take out bank loans by acting as a guarantor and ended up paying back those loans. She said the loans, totaling $40,000, were used to pay employment agency fees.

Magistrate Wat told Jara she committed a serious breach of trust by stealing a big amount causing a huge loss to her employer over a period of seven months. She said the defendant also overstayed for more than a year, an entirely different offense.

For the theft, Wat sentenced Jara to 8 months in jail. She meted another month in jail for her overstay, with the sentences to be served consecutively. 

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