Judge imposes 'lenient' term on woman in school deposits scam A debt-ridden teacher was sent to jail yesterday for what a judge called a 'very lenient' 20 months for ripping off HK$630,000 in so-called sincerity deposits from parents desperate to get their children into an elite school. The former head of admissions at Diocesan Preparatory School, Jacqueline Lau Fung-yan, 37, was sentenced in the District Court on six counts of fraud and two of attempted fraud in relation to the money - including HK$580,000 from one parent alone - that she took to repay mahjong debts. The court heard the parents were duped into paying the money in a bid to secure the remaining vacancy in the Kowloon Tong school after the official allocation of school places. Deputy Judge Rickie Chan Kam-cheong said Lau's actions involved a serious breach of trust. '[She] took advantage of the school's reputation and the parents' aspirations to pave for their children the way to success; she abused the trust parents placed in the school,' Judge Chan said. 'A number of parents were victimised in this scam, which involved a considerable sum of money.' But he said he had chosen not to impose a heavier term despite the aggravating factors in the case. Lau had paid the price by ruining her future and bringing shame to her family, he said, adding that he sympathised with her five-year-old son, who would be deprived of his mother's love and care while she was in jail. 'The sentence I impose is a very lenient one. I hope Lau will treasure this opportunity to try her best to be a responsible and helpful person in the eyes of her family and friends.' Lau, who taught music at the school for 13 years, pleaded guilty on September 9 to the offences, which were committed between July 13 and 20 last year. She had admitted having fraudulently obtained the money by telling the victims they could pay the deposits to express their sincerity and reserve a place in the queue. She also told them the money was not a guarantee of a place and would be refunded in a month regardless of the outcome of their applications. She induced one parent to give her HK$580,000. Two other parents were induced to pay her HK$20,000 and HK$30,000. A fourth parent reported the case to the Independent Commission Against Corruption when Lau attempted to solicit HK$70,000 from him. The court was told Lau had become a heavy gambler because she felt pressured by her work and after she gave birth to her son in 2003. While accepting the pressure from work could be a possible cause, Judge Chan said Lau's claim of having suffered post-natal depression was extremely unconvincing because he was not provided with any medical evidence. Yesterday the court heard Lau's HK$259,000 pension would be forfeited because of her case. Her lawyer, Timothy Wong, told the court Lau's mother and husband had sold their properties to repay her debts. He also said Lau's mother had moved into her daughter's home to take care of her son, who had already been told his mother could not come home for some time.