Crooked bank teller shocks judge

Top News | Kelly Ip 3 Jan 2013

A District Court judge wants to know how a bank teller convicted of forgery and jailed could land a job at another bank within months of being freed and go on to steal HK$2.2 million from customers.

Former Standard Chartered teller Simon Wong Sai-man, 32, pleaded guilty yesterday to two counts of forgery and one of theft after tapping into customers' accounts and stealing money.

Judge Frankie Yiu Fun-che was told Wong is a heavy football gambler and stole from bank customers to cover his debts.

But the judge expressed shock and bewilderment when told Wong served two years in jail for forgery after stealing HK$860,000 from customers of Hang Seng Bank, where he was a teller from 2004 to 2007.

Six months after his release in 2010 he went to work for Standard Chartered and again used his forgery skills to steal from customers. After hearing that, the judge told the prosecutor to provide full details of Wong's previous wrongdoing and report to him on January 23 before sentencing.

Wong said in 2008, when facing eight counts of forgery, that he had lost on the stock market and needed to repay a student loan.

This time around and gambling again, Wong moved HK$840,000 and HK$1.37 million from two accounts of Standard Chartered customers from May 13 to August 25. He selected these accounts as the holders did not require monthly statements, so concealment was easier.

Wong transferred money from one account to the other to try hide the fact he was stealing money. Then, also in a bid to cover his tracks, he used blank paper for printing transaction details so they would not appear on passbooks when the account holders updated them.

He also came up with a photograph of the holder of the account he looted to make up the money taken from the first one and then faked a chop and passbook that he could use.

But Wong reached too far and was nabbed.

That came after he took the false name chop and bank book to a Standard Chartered branch in Mong Kok on September 4 last year to try to take HK$23,000 from the account.

The teller noticed the name chop was different from the original in bank records and alerted a supervisor. It was the end for Wong this time around.

The judge said Wong needed to think on repaying money he stole, though the bank has made good on the HK$1.37 million from the second account.

As for Wong's personal story, the court heard he is from a broken family and was raised by his mother, now 62. He gave her HK$4,000 every month, and he also has a girlfriend. He obtained a higher diploma in translation and interpreting years ago but has yet to pay off all his student loans.

Separately, a spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Association of Banks had nothing to say about rules on employing people with convictions like Wong, but there are "appropriate policies and procedures."

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