SINGAPORE: A maid was sentenced to one-and-a-half years’ jail on Wednesday (Jul 26) after she stole jewellery from a hidden wardrobe compartment in her employer’s home and more than S$50,000 (US$37,700) in cash.
When the thefts were discovered, she quickly contacted another maid to tell pawn shops to sell off the stolen jewellery that she had pawned to them.
She denied the crimes at first, but a police officer noticed the sound of rustling paper while escorting her. The officer discovered pawn tickets hidden on the maid and jewellery hidden in a lunch bag.
Erna Susilawati, 39, pleaded guilty to two charges of theft, with another two charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that Susilawati worked for a family who lives in a terrace house in the MacPherson area.
She received a monthly salary of S$900 and had days off, as well as 10 days’ annual leave during Chinese New Year.
She had no complaints working for her employer and was trusted to go out on her own to run errands, the court heard.
Susilawati stole from her employer’s 70-year-old mother-in-law between January 2021 and June 2021.
She took S$50,000 in cash from a drawer in the victim’s bedroom and pocketed 15 pieces of jewellery she found in a hidden compartment under a wardrobe in the victim’s bedroom.
After stealing the cash and jewellery, Susilawati got the help of unwitting fellow maids to pawn the items and remit the proceeds to her home country of Indonesia.
On Jun 14, 2021, the victim realised that over S$50,000 in cash was missing from her room. The jewellery was also missing. Despite searching for a few days, she could not find the valuables and a police report was filed.
The police first took a statement from Susilawati on Jun 17, 2021, but she did not admit her offences. Instead, she contacted another maid and asked her to inform the pawn shops to sell away the jewellery that she had pawned there.
The next day, Susilawati was escorted to the Centre for Domestic Employees, where she was to stay while investigations were pending. While the police were escorting her, an officer heard rustling sounds of paper on Susilawati’s body.
A check revealed pawn tickets that she had been hiding. The maid was also holding onto a plastic bag containing the leftovers of a lunch she had eaten earlier. She refused to throw the bag away.
The police found a pouch hidden underneath the consumed packet of lunch, with jewellery and EZ-Link cards inside.
The police also found multiple phones with her, as well as 12 pieces of jewellery that she could not account for.
Susilawati eventually admitted to stealing from the victim on multiple occasions. She had remitted all the stolen money back to Indonesia and did not make any restitution.
The prosecutor asked for between 18 and 20 months’ jail for Susilawati, pointing to the high value of items stolen, the multiple occasions of offending motivated by greed and the abuse of trust.
“We highlight that the accused was well paid and had no shortage of benefits accorded to her in the form of annual leave,” said the prosecutor.
He said the maid had exemplified a lack of remorse by trying to hide the stolen jewellery and pawn tickets.
However, he said she had pleaded guilty at the earliest chance. He also noted that there was “some delay” in the case, with charges against her entered only two years after investigations started.
The investigations were extensive, he explained, adding that they involved screenings at multiple pawn shops and statements taken from pawn shop workers and the maids who helped Susilawati.
ACCUSED ASKS TO GO HOME
In mitigation, Susilawati said she wanted to go home as soon as possible to see her children and that she had been unemployed for a few years, with no one supporting her kids financially.
“My husband and I have already divorced and my husband (is) already with another woman, so I have to take my children,” said Susilawati through an interpreter.
“I really wish that my case can be concluded as soon as possible, because since 2019 I have not seen my children and my children really want to see me immediately,” she said, crying.
In response, the prosecutor said no restitution has been made, and the amounts of cash have already been remitted back to Indonesia, “ostensibly to her family”.
“There is little to suggest that her children in Indonesia are suffering from a lack of financial support,” said the prosecutor.
The judge said there was a degree of planning involved in the offences, with the maid abusing her position of trust and confidence.
Her willingness to rope others in also showed her commitment to wrongdoing, said the judge.