Former Kopitiam area manager with gambling problem gets jail for pocketing about

SINGAPORE: A man who managed the operations of Kopitiam outlets at three malls was entrusted with large amounts of cash, but he pocketed S$149,800 (US$112,700) for his gambling addiction.

Kelvin Lam Choon Huat, 36, was sentenced to 21 months’ jail on Thursday (Jan 4) after pleading guilty to one count of criminal breach of trust by dishonest misappropriation as an employee.

The man began working as an area manager with Kopitiam Investment in July 2021.

He managed the operations of Kopitiam outlets at Tampines One, Changi City Point and Tampines Mall, and was periodically rostered as the manager on duty at the Tampines Mall outlet.

When he was the manager on duty at Tampines Mall, he was tasked with collecting all the cash sales from the stall owners, the drinks stall, the Kopitiam Card top-up kiosks and the Kopitiam Senior Citizen’s Card top-up kiosks.

He was supposed to record the total amount collected in the company’s computer system, seal the cash in four separate bags, deposit them into the company’s bank account and scan bank deposit slips into the company’s computer system to indicate that the money had been cashed in.

Between Dec 26, 2021 and Jan 6, 2022, Lam was rostered as the manager on duty for Tampines Mall’s Kopitiam outlet.

He was responsible for depositing a total of S$272,101.45 into the company’s bank account.


However, he took about S$146,000 from this amount by keeping two to three money bags daily instead of placing them into the company’s safe.

He did so primarily to fund his gambling addiction and for his personal expenses, the court heard.

Lam would then deposit one to two of the money bags into the company’s bank account, but fill in and scan four deposit slips into the computer system to make it seem as though all four money bags had been deposited.

On top of the sum he took, he also filched about S$3,975 from the cash float in the company’s safe, making the total amount he embezzled S$149,788.50.

On Jan 7, 2022, the company’s finance department sent an email to Lam’s reporting officer about the money Lam had supposedly deposited between Dec 26, 2021 and Jan 6, 2022.

The full sum as per the deposit slips had not been fully credited into the company’s bank account, the finance department reported.

Lam’s reporting officer texted Lam to ask why the money had not been credited, and Lam said he had not deposited it yet “due to a misunderstanding”, court documents stated.

After being confronted, Lam retrieved about S$110,500 that he had kept in the company’s safe and deposited it into the company’s bank account.

He was unable to make full restitution to the company by Jan 31, 2022 as required by the company. Kopitiam also declined Lam’s offer to pay S$5,000 first, followed by monthly instalments of S$3,000.

The company notified the police of the case and Lam stopped working for Kopitiam as of end-January 2022.

The prosecution sought 22 to 26 months’ jail for Lam, citing similar cases. 

Defence lawyer Justin Ng of Kalco Law asked for not more than 18 months’ jail instead, saying it was his client’s “recent gambling addiction that pushed him to desperation and to commit the present offence”.

Mr Ng said Lam “deeply regrets” betraying the trust placed in him by his former employer and had expressed remorse by writing a personal apology letter from an early stage.

Lam is also committed to turning over a new leaf, seeking counselling for his gambling addiction to help him better understand the triggers underlying it.

The lawyer tendered letters affirming his regular attendance at support groups and noting how he volunteered at a community service to help the elderly and the poor.

Lam was allowed to begin his jail term on Feb 13.

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

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