SINGAPORE: A 19-year-old serial taxi fare cheat who also stole NETS CashCards from two cabbies was sentenced to 21 months' probation on Thursday (Aug 15).
Ibrahim Kuthubudeen, now 20, was also ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
The court heard that Ibrahim had taken at least 10 taxis between May and August last year but did not pay the fares, which ranged between S$10.35 and S$32.20 each.
The most expensive fare was for a ride from Sentosa to Punggol in the wee hours of the morning.
In all of the cases, Ibrahim's modus operandi was the same: He would try to pay via NETS but failed multiple times.
He would then offer to make bank transfers to the cabbies, but would not keep his word.
At least one taxi driver refused this arrangement and asked for his number instead, but still did not manage to claw the fare back from him.
Several of the cabbies reported the fare evasion either to their cab company or the police.
HE BEGAN STEALING CABBIES' CASHCARDS
In September last year, Ibrahim's crimes took on a different form - he began distracting the taxi drivers in order to steal their CashCards.
On Sep 24, Ibrahim boarded a cab along Jurong West Avenue 1 at about 3.20am.
He alighted at Block 832A, Jurong West Street 81, about 10 minutes later and did not pay the fare, instead promising to transfer S$3.25 to the driver.
As he was leaving the cab, Ibrahim lied to the cabby that one of his back tyres had a puncture.
While the taxi driver was checking on the tyre, Ibrahim took the man's NETS CashCard and left. He later used the stored value until it was depleted and threw the card away.
He repeated this tactic again on Oct 4 with another cabby. This time, he boarded a taxi at Bendemeer Road and was driven to his Jurong West home.
When he reached his destination, Ibrahim again could not pay the fare and instead let the cabby take a photo of his NRIC after offering to make a bank transfer.
Again, he lied to the cabby that his tyre had been punctured and took his NETS CashCard.
Ibrahim had pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and 10 counts of taxi fare evasion, and also paid all the taxi fares he owed. Another nine charges were taken into consideration.
The prosecutor did not object to probation, while the defence tried to ask for fewer hours of community service, saying Ibrahim had to work on weekends due to his financial circumstances.
Ibrahim's mother also had to put up a bond of S$5,000 to ensure his good behaviour.
District Judge Eddy Tham said 100 hours was "not very long" considering that Ibrahim was on probation for 21 months.
He told Ibrahim that he had "a lot on his plate", along with a child, and that he hoped Ibrahim would succeed in sticking to the probation rules and give his family a chance at success in the future.
The punishment for evading taxi fares is a fine of up to S$1,000. This increases to S$2,000 and a maximum jail term of six months for repeat offenders.
For theft, Ibrahim could have been jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.