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Filipina who stole over $500k from employer’s bank account jailed 12 months

13 August 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Garaza admitted stealing more than $500k from  her employer (photo from Kevin Luga)

A Filipina domestic helper who admitted stealing $538,500 from her employer’s bank account via unauthorized withdrawals over a 14-month period, has been sentenced to a year in jail.

June Jennie B. Garaza, 33, was sentenced by Magistrate Peony Wong in Eastern Court on Wednesday, 15 days after the helper pleaded guilty to the theft, which was discovered by her American employer, Stephen Peeples, on Jan 21 this year.


The lawyer representing Garaza had appealed for leniency, saying the helper committed the offense because she was repaying debt incurred by her family for the cancer treatment of her mother, who eventually succumbed to the disease.

But Wong disregarded the appeal, saying she could only give the defendant a one-third discount for her guilty plea, because the defendant committed a serious breach of trust. Otherwise, she would have gone to jail for 18 months, the magistrate said.

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Garaza, mother of a 20-month-old boy, had already been detained for more than seven months since her arrest on Jan 22, so she may be freed after only a few more months.

She was initially accused of stealing around $780,000.

Luga told radio host Tulfo that his wife was innocent

Shortly after Garaza was charged in Eastern Court on Jan 25, her husband Kevin Luga, who was also a domestic helper of Peeples, appeared on the popular radio program “Raffy Tulfo in Action” to ask for help, claiming his wife had been framed. ( )
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He said their employer had been furious after finding out that his wife had paid for his hotel quarantine in Hong Kong along with their baby son, by withdrawing money from Peeple's HSBC account using an ATM card.

Luga said Peeples, a lawyer, had placed the ATM card in an easily accessible place inside his house so Garaza could use it to draw her salary and pay for all the daily needs at the employer’s home.

Tulfo, in turn, spoke with Consulate staff Arnel de Luna and asked why they allowed Garaza to be held by the police without bail when the evidence against her, as claimed by Luga, did not appear to be sufficient.

De Luna said Hong Kong has its own justice system that must be respected  


Luga, who was also sacked by Peeples after Garaza's arrest, has since returned to the Philippines with their son.

Peeples confirmed unauthorized withdrawals from his account between Nov 21, 2019 and Jan 21 this year totaled $650,500, lower than the $768,000 that she was originally accused of stealing.

After deducting $112,000 for the helper’s monthly $5,000 salary and $3,000 monthly household expenses for 14 months, the employer came up with the total amount which Garaza admitted to stealing.

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The employer told police he could easily pinpoint his own withdrawals because he always withdrew amounts ending in $900 so he would have $100 banknotes. He said he seldom used the ATM card as he paid for his expenses with his credit card.

Peeples hired Garaza as his helper in January 2017. He told police he gave the maid his HSBC ATM card and password in January 2019, with instructions to seek his permission and show receipts of her purchases each time she withdrew from the account.

Peeples discovered the theft on Jan 21 this year when he logged into his e-banking account and saw an unauthorized $3,500 withdrawal.

The employer confronted Garaza and, on the same day, the helper admitted making unauthorized withdrawals and sending the money to the Philippines to repay debt.

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