Daniel Ong, Jaime Teo charged in Twelve Cupcakes wages case

Founders allegedly allowed pastry chain to underpay foreign staff between 2013 and 2016

Local radio DJ Daniel Ong Ming Yu and former model Jaime Teo Chai-lin were hauled to court yesterday over offences under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act linked to pastry chain Twelve Cupcakes, which they founded.

They allegedly allowed the chain to underpay the wages of their foreign employees between 2013 and 2016.

There were also instances involving some workers who, for periods between 2012 and 2013, did not receive any income.

The court heard that the staff purportedly did not receive their stipulated wages within a week of the end of the salary periods.

One employee - Mr Zhu Weihong - did not receive his monthly salary of $2,000 within a week of the last day of the month. This happened between Sept 8 and Nov 8, 2012.

Ong, 45, and Teo, 43, formerly a married couple, are each facing 24 charges involving eight employees.

The court heard that Teo intends to plead guilty to her charges on Jan 26. Ong's case has been adjourned to the same day.

For each charge under the Act, an offender can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $10,000.

Twelve Cupcakes was founded by Ong and Teo in 2011. It was acquired for $2.5 million by Kolkata-based Dhunseri Group in 2016.

The chain, under the new owners, pleaded guilty earlier this month to 15 charges of underpaying its employees in 2017 and 2018.

Fourteen other similar charges will be taken into consideration by District Judge Adam Nakhoda during sentencing, which is expected to take place on Jan 7.

The court heard that Twelve Cupcakes, under the new owners, underpaid six employees - who were in customer service and sales roles - their December 2016 to September 2018 wages. One of them was also underpaid the October and November 2018 wages.

The pastry chain also paid less than the fixed monthly salary for January 2017 to September 2018 due to a seventh employee, a pastry chef.

While the fixed monthly salaries of those in customer service and sales roles were stated as ranging from $2,200 to $2,600, they were paid only about $1,400 to $2,050 by the company.

Court documents state that Twelve Cupcakes had initially credited the reduced salaries to the employees' bank accounts.

From May 2018, however, the firm paid the full salaries but then told the employees that they had to return a portion to the company in cash.

It did this to conceal a paper trail of its offences, said Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Maximilian Chew in urging the court to impose a fine of $127,000.