A well-respected pianist and producer of RTHK classical music programmes was jailed for 16 months yesterday for cheating his employer out of almost $250,000. George Mak Che-kin, 37, admitted five counts of false accounting committed over a two-year period while working as programme officer for classical music channel Radio Four on Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). Twenty-five testimonials on Mak's behalf - including letters from Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping, Hong Kong Sinfonietta conductor Yip Wing-sie and disc jockey 'Uncle' Ray Cordeiro - were presented to the court before sentencing. District Court Judge Maggie Poon Man-kay heard Mak, who had been brought up in a 'family of achievers', played piano before former governor Sir Murray MacLehose in 1971 when he was six years old. Prosecutor Ian McWalters said Mak was given responsibility for recruiting freelance workers in 1998 to help establish a new station computer system. On various occasions between early 1999 and December 2000, Mak had overstated the hours of 10 freelancers, he said, who consequently received excess payments. Mak then told them they had been overpaid and pocketed the money that they returned. Mak had also registered Candy Mok Tin-yan - a close friend of Mak's wife Anita So Wing-kum - as a freelance worker and falsified working records for her. Ms Mok never worked for RTHK, the court was told. Ms Mok's husband was a travel agent whom the Maks booked private holidays through. Mak told her money paid into her account was for travel expenses. Ms Mok was unaware she had become a 'ghost worker' for RTHK. Mak also registered Nip Tsz-man - a friend of his from secondary school - as a freelancer without his knowledge. Mak then said he was entitled to allowances but was unable to claim them directly and persuaded Mr Nip to allow him to use his bank account. Barrister Andrew Macrae, SC, for Mak, said it was a tragedy his client had lost a good reputation due to his own stupidity. 'The tragedy was not only for him but for his family. His parents were disappointed from their only son's fall from grace,' he said. Mak joined RTHK upon graduating from the University of Hong Kong in 1987. Mr Macrae pointed out that Mak had piloted many programmes designed to increase public interest in classical music. He said his client would inevitably lose his job, his monthly salary of $46,000 and his pension of about $500,000 as a result of his conviction. He added that Mak had repaid RTHK about 60 per cent of about $250,000 that he had embezzled. Jailing Mak for 16 months yesterday, Judge Poon said the offence had been premeditated and in breach of his employer's trust. 'Innocent parties unaware of his plot were used by him to perpetrate his fraud to deceive money from the government,' she said. The court heard Mak's wife had been charged in relation to her alleged involvement in arrangements between her husband and Ms Mok. She is due to appear in Kowloon City Court on July 29.