Dental assistant embezzled more than $158,000, bought property in Malaysia

·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
A dentist with tools in hand
A dentist with tools in hand. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A dental assistant caught for embezzling nearly $45,000 in patient fees was given a chance to redeem herself by having her salary deducted until she paid the siphoned sum in full.

However, Charlene Ashby Clay continued to misappropriate funds using a different modus operandi, and even sent the money home to buy property in Malaysia.

The 24-year-old Malaysian was jailed for one year, four months, and two weeks on Tuesday (4 January), after she pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal breach of trust as a servant and one count of transferring benefits from criminal conduct. 

Another four charges, including falsifying accounts and cheating, were considered for her sentencing.

Pocketed $44,861 from patients

Clay was a dental assistant at Dr Smile Dental Clinic when she offended.

Between 1 October 2018 and 25 March 2019, Clay was entrusted to collect payment for dental services from patients but pocketed them instead. On the Point-of-Sale (POS) system, Clay would state that payment was made by NETS or credit card, which could not be immediately verified as opposed to a cash payment.

She would then misappropriate the cash. Unless the clinic’s bank account was checked, Clay’s misdeeds would not be detected.

In this manner, Clay siphoned $44,861 in cash from 1 October 2018 to 25 March 2019. 

In late March 2019, the clinic’s accountant informed the owner about a discrepancy between the amount received by the clinic and its POS system. The records showed that the clinic collected $44,861 less than what it should have, based on what was keyed into the POS system.

The clinic owner confronted Clay, who admitted to the offence. Clay then begged not to have her work permit cancelled and pleaded to continue working at the clinic. She claimed she was willing to pay the owner back.

The owner decided to give her a second chance and the two agreed on 3 May 2019 that between $650 and $1,050 would be deducted from Clay’s monthly salary until the sum of $44,861 was fully repaid.

Continued to pocket funds

However, Clay had no intention to stop misappropriating funds, and switched to a different modus operandi.

Between 25 March 2019 and 31 March 2020, Clay arranged to have patients pay in cash for their dental services. She would have patients pay the full payment for dental packages to her personal bank account via PayNow transfers, offering a discount to them if they did so. She had no authority to offer any discount but cheated 57 patients into believing that she could. 

When patients came to use their packages, she would transfer small sums of money to the clinic’s bank account as “payment” for packages so as not to arouse suspicion.

She received up to $113,520 through this scheme.

On 30 March 2020, the clinic owner told one of his patients to pay $200 at the counter after completing a maintenance procedure for her braces. But the patient said that she had already made full payment of $3,700 for the entire package.

As the clinic’s policy was to charge the patient the cost of each procedure after every visit, the owner was puzzled. He then confronted Clay, who admitted that she had again embezzled the funds.

In the same period, Clay remitted some of the misappropriated funds to a bank account in Malaysia. She used some of the money to pay for a property in Malaysia.

In total, she admitted to siphoning $158,381 from the clinic. 

She made restitution of $12,348.03 which consists of the sums that were deducted from her salary every month from 3 May 2019. No more restitution was made after a police report was lodged on 30 March 2020.

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