Restaurant manager misappropriated over $200k, causing eatery to close down

SINGAPORE – The manager of a Japanese restaurant misappropriated more than $200,000 from his employer’s bank account, causing the eatery to close down.

South Korean Lee Sung Eun, 26, who has made no restitution, pleaded guilty to criminal breach of trust on Monday (June 10) and was sentenced to 2½ years’ jail.

Owner of Yokowa Japanese restaurant Yoon Seongil, 45, had employed Lee in March 2016 to take charge of the eatery, the court heard.

Mr Yoon, who frequently travelled for business, also handed a debit card to him and a cheque book linked to a bank account which was opened when the restaurant was set up.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Foong Leong Parn said that Lee, as the manager, was entrusted with the monies in the firm’s bank account.

But he later used the debit card and cheque book for his own personal use.

The court heard that Lee made numerous cash withdrawals and debit card transactions from July 2016 to May 2017.

DPP Foong told District Judge Edgar Foo that Mr Yoon became suspicious in May 2017 as the eatery was not making any profit.

He later confronted Lee with the firm’s bank statements and the younger man came clean about what he had done.

The DPP added that Lee had used the embezzled funds to gamble, go clubbing, and pay for hotel stays and luxury goods.

“As a result of the actions of the accused, (Mr Yoon) had to cease operations of the restaurant,” the DPP told the court.

On Monday, defence lawyer Diana Ngiam pleaded for her client to be sentenced to two years’ jail, stressing that he was only about 23 years old when he misappropriated the monies.

Ms Ngiam also said that Lee was sorry for what he had done.

For criminal breach of trust, he could have been jailed for up to 15 years and fined.

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