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Man jailed for conspiring to steal wires from empty junior colleges, cost TPJC S$840,000 in repairs

Man jailed for conspiring to steal wires from empty junior colleges, cost TPJC S$840,000 in repairs

The former Jurong Junior College and Tampines Junior College. (Images: TODAY, Google Street View)

SINGAPORE: In the dead of night in January last year, three men went to the empty Jurong Junior College (JJC) campus and stole S$20,000 worth of copper wires.

When the COVID-19 "circuit breaker" was in place a few months later in April, the trio went to Tampines Junior College (TPJC) and stripped it of electrical cables, costing the JC S$840,000 in repairs.

The 1,767kg of cables from the campuses were sold for about S$7,500 which was shared among them.

The three men were arrested on Apr 23, 2020, with one man identified through DNA analysis of his saliva left on a bottle at JJC.

One of them, 34-year-old Bangladeshi national Jan Shak Mohabbat, was sentenced on Tuesday (Sep 21) to two years and 10 months' jail.

He pleaded guilty to four counts of housebreaking to commit theft of copper wires and electrical cables at the two JC campuses, together with co-accused Miah Shobus and Om Shakti Tiwari.

Another eight charges were considered in sentencing.

THE FIRST OF FOUR JUNIOR COLLEGE BREAK-INS

The court heard that the trio agreed to steal copper wires from the vacant JJC campus and sell them at recycling shops for profit.

On a night in mid-January last year, Tiwari drove Miah and Jan to JJC in a rented car. Jan and Miah climbed over the perimeter fence while Tiwari waited for them in the car.

Jan and Miah used large wire cutters they brought with them to cut copper wires in the JC's main consumer switch room after breaking the room's padlock and loaded the wires into Tiwari's car.

They returned to JJC on the night of Jan 20 and stole more copper wires. Tiwari sold the wires at recycling shops and split the money with the other two, but court documents did not indicate how much they earned from this sale.

About two months after this, the men decided to break into the vacant TPJC campus and steal electrical cables.

On Apr 8, 2020, when the circuit breaker forbidding non-essential outings in a bid to curb the COVID-19 pandemic had just begun, Tiwari drove the trio to TPJC in a rented van.

Jan and Miah had cut a hole in the fence weeks before in preparation, and they entered the premises through the hole while Tiwari waited in the van.

The duo cut electrical cables from around the TPJC compound, including cables from the ceilings, electrical risers and the air handling unit room.

They then loaded the cables into the van, and Tiwari drove off with them. That same day, Tiwari sold 994kg of electrical cables at a recycling shop and earned S$3,976. He paid some of this to Miah and Jan.

The three men returned to TPJC at about 3am on Apr 17, 2020 and Jan and Miah stole more electrical cables while Tiwari waited in his van.

Tiwari later sold 773 of electrical cables to a recycling shop for S$3,478 and paid some money to Miah and Jan.

TPJC REPAIRS COST S$840,000, JJC LOST S$20,000 WORTH OF WIRES

The total cost to reinstate the stolen electrical cables at TPJC and other costs including repair works for the ceilings and supplying new switch gear amounted to S$840,000. While there are no numbers for the repair costs for JJC, about 1,000m of wire worth S$20,000 was stolen from the campus, the prosecutor said.

The police arrested all three men on Apr 23, 2020, after identifying Jan through DNA analysis of saliva he left behind on a bottle at JJC, and tracing Miah through Housing Board police camera images. Eyewitnesses had also spotted Tiwari's car outside the campuses.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Edwin Soh sought 34 months' jail for Jan, pointing to how significant the damage caused to property was.

Aggravating factors include premeditation, damage to property and the fact that both JCs were properties owned by the Ministry of Education, with public funds utilised to repair the damage caused.

Jan also reoffended while out on bail, as he was found with suspected stolen copper wire after being charged for the JC crimes.

Jan, Tiwari and Miah had been set to go to trial on Monday, but Jan decided to plead guilty. The cases for Miah and Tiwari have been sent back for pre-trial conferences.

In January this year, Bangladeshi national Rasel was given 17 months' jail for his role in a conspiracy to steal wires from Singapore Chinese Girls' Primary School during the circuit breaker. The subsequent repairs cost S$480,000.

In April, Bangladeshi national Islam Dwin was given a year and eight months' jail for his role in wire theft break-ins at Hong Kah Secondary School, TPJC and a factory.

Source: CNA/ll(zl)

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