SINGAPORE: A teenager who distracted multiple taxi drivers before stealing their cash or wallets, at times looping in accomplices for his scheme, was sentenced to 21 months' probation on Monday (Mar 30).
Saif Ali Khan Sadik Hussain, 18, also has to perform 110 hours of community service.
He pleaded guilty to 10 charges - a mix of theft, trespass and receiving stolen property, with another 10 charges taken into consideration.
He had stolen cash, CashCards, wallets and other valuables from at least 10 taxi drivers between September 2018 and October 2019.
In many of these cases, Saif distracted the cabbies by asking them to check the stored value of a card via the cab's In-Vehicle Unit.
While the taxi driver was leaning forward to slot the card in, Saif would steal valuables.
He did this at about 1.45am on Jul 9 last year, after flagging down a cab in Ang Mo Kio.
He boarded the cab and asked the driver if he knew where "Aljunied 10th floor" was.
Before the cabby could reply, Saif passed a card to him and asked him to check its stored value using the In-Vehicle Unit.
As the driver leaned forward to do so, Saif stole his wallet. The card he gave the driver could not be read via the unit, so the cabby returned it to Saif.
Saif took the card and immediately alighted with the wallet, which contained the cabby's NRIC, driving licence and ATM cards. He took S$200 from it and threw the wallet away into a nearby bush.
HE HAD ACCOMPLICES, USED SAME MODUS OPERANDI
Saif also roped in others in his thefts, including two accomplices who were with him in Geylang on Oct 19, 2018.
The trio flagged down a cab, with a 17-year-old boy sitting in front and Saif sitting in the back with a 14-year-old.
The 17-year-old boy asked the cabby if he could send them to Yishun for S$5.
Meanwhile, the 14-year-old stole S$60 from the cabby's armrest. The taxi driver said he could not take them to Yishun for S$5, and the trio alighted the cab before splitting the cash.
Saif also had six teenage accomplices in an offence committed in December 2018.
The group of friends planned to steal cash from any taxi that they managed to flag down, and found a target at about 12.30am on Dec 12, 2018.
Saif entered the cab with four others, telling the driver that they wanted to go to SAFRA at Toa Payoh.
The other two accomplices tried to squeeze into the vehicle, but the cabby told them that it was not possible for seven people to board.
While this was ongoing, Saif, who was seated behind the distracted driver, reached for the driver's door and stole S$220 from the door compartment.
The group later said they would take another cab and alighted, but walked away instead of waiting for another taxi.
The driver felt their behaviour was weird, but continued driving. He discovered the missing cash 20 minutes later and lodged a police report.
Other than the cab-related offences, Saif also committed a string of other crimes including being part of a group that stole 20 stuffed toys from a funfair and stealing from a supermarket.
He was arrested by police officers on Oct 30 last year, after a member of the public called the police saying that "two guys had been sitting at the round table since morning and have yet to move a muscle".
He added that the pair looked "unsteady and dazed". Saif later tested positive for drugs.
The judge had called for both probation and reformative training suitability reports.
While the prosecutor noted Saif's "rather prolific spree of offending", he also considered his youth.
He did not object to probation being imposed, but noted that Saif should undergo random drug tests during his National Service.
JUDGE WARNS SAIF
District Judge Christopher Goh reminded Saif that if he offended during NS, he could be subject to a Singapore Armed Forces court martial hearing instead.
"SAF detention is a longer detention and you will be subject to a regime," said Judge Goh. "You know what's regime? ... Every morning you can march around the parade square."
Saif said he would listen to his father, who furnished a bond of S$5,000 to ensure Saif's good behaviour, and not reoffend.
Judge Goh also told Saif that he would have to complete his community service while he was serving NS.
"Weekends, no going out with friends, you've got 110 hours of community service to do," said the judge. "If the probation officer tells us you've not been doing this, we will revoke your probation order."
"If you get RTC, your NS will be pushed back," said Judge Goh. "You better wake up your idea. You are no longer a small boy."
For each charge of theft, Saif could have been jailed for up to three years, fined, or both.