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Filipina jailed 9 months for stealing $114k from handicapped employer

29 April 2022

By The SUN

Belle and Yeye relaxing at home a few years back

For nearly eight years, 41-year-old Filipina domestic worker Richiebelle A. Aballe and her 91-year-old male employer she called “Yeye” (grandfather) were inseparable.

But all this changed in December last year when Aballe, apparently stricken with guilt, went to the police to admit that she had been stealing from her elderly ward who has mobility and other health issues. She was immediately arrested and held without bail.

On Thursday, Aballe was sentenced to nine month’s imprisonment for stealing a total of  $114,110 in credit balances from the employer’s Visa card account over a 32-month period, as well as his Tudor wristwatch which she pawned for $700 on Dec. 15.

The Filipina’s longtime friends were shocked to hear about the case, as they spent most of their Sundays off for about three years previously, hanging out with Aballe at Yeye’s house in Lei Tung Estate in Ap Lei Chau.


Her friends knew how Aballe had treated her employer like her own grandfather that she rarely left the house except when Yeye had to be taken to hospital for his regular check-up, or accompany him to visit  his three sons who live apart from him and have their own families.

In an interview with The SUN in 2019, Aballe even spoke of how her employer, whose real name is Chung Chi-kwong, would keep an eye on the closed-circuit TV monitor each time she left the house to do her daily marketing.

She also spoke with fondness about how Chung would often inquire about her teen-age daughter, and give both of them cash presents during Christmas.


They were so close that Aballe would often just invite a few of her friends over on their days off so they could chat, eat and watch TV together with Chung.

Five years ago when Aballe and her friends were victimized by an illegal recruiter who offered them fake jobs in Canada, Chung was as anxious to pursue the culprit that he went along with the group to the Small Claims Tribunal to file a case.

They were a sight to behold – the diminutive Abella who stands all of 4 feet 10 inches tall, pushing the hefty Chung on a wheelchair – as they made their way to the Tribunal’s former offices in Wan Chai.

But somewhere along the way, her friends say Aballe started having serious financial problems,  ultimately causing her to get desperate.

Press for details

After she admitted to pawning the watch, police investigators began digging up and saw that she had had taken much more from the elderly man. 

At first, they determined that Aballe had tricked the elderly man into taking out a $99,000 overdraft on his Visa card account with Hang Seng Bank between October 2019 and October 2021.

But further investigation revealed that the theft had gone on for much longer, and the amount involved was bigger, so they amended the second charge. 

The second theft charge stated that between Jan 25, 2019 and Sept 1, 2021, she had stolen a total of $114,100 in credit balances from Chung’s Visa card with Hang Seng Bank. 

In court Thursday, Aballe pleaded guilty to the two counts of theft, for which Magistrate Jason Wan sentenced her to two separate but partially concurrent jail terms totaling nine months.


In mitigation, Aballe’s lawyer cited her clear record and the fact that she served her employer for seven years and seven months.

He said she had a teen-age daughter in the Philippines to support as a single parent.

But because her salary was not enough, she had been driven to borrow money from financing companies.

When she found herself unable to pay off her borrowings, she started stealing from her employer, which she now regrets.

He asked for understanding that she could not pay back what she had stolen.

As she awaited her sentence, Aballe was seen wiping tears with her fingers.

Magistrate Wan acknowledged that the defendant had a clear record, that she surrendered to the police, and was genuinely remorseful.

But he added: “This is a serious breach-of-trust case, where she stole money from her employer who is elderly and with disability.”

He noted that she cannot compensate for the more than $100,000 that she stole.

With a starting point of 12 months, reduced by a third as a discount, the judge sentenced her to eight months in prison for stealing $114,100 from her employer’s bank account.

For stealing her employer’s watch Aballe received a sentence of two months, which was discounted from the usual three months.

Wan ordered one month of the second sentence to run consecutive to the first eight months, making a total of nine months in jail.

Having spent almost five months in custody, Aballe would soon be out of prison, and back at home. But that would be little comfort, knowing she had hurt the one person she had spent so many happy years with in Hong Kong.

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