Repeat offender who stole shoppers' phones, wallets from supermarket trolleys gets corrective training
SINGAPORE: A jobless man released from prison in 2014 after a five-year corrective training sentence for a string of offences returned to his old ways, this time targeting grocery shoppers who left their valuables unattended in their trolleys.
For this and other offences involving about S$30,000 in total, 53-year-old Goh Swee Tian was sentenced to six years' corrective training on Wednesday (Aug 28).
On Jan 8 last year, Goh was in the NTUC FairPrice Finest outlet at Tiong Bahru Plaza when he saw a shopping basket with a handbag in it, the court heard.
The owner had left the basket on the floor while she picked up goods from another area of the supermarket, and returned to find it missing.
Goh stole her bag, which contained about S$1,400 in valuables, including a S$500 Gucci wallet, an Apple iPhone, several credit cards, S$400 and cash in several other currencies.
He also used one of the credit cards that same night to buy a 999 gold bracelet valued at S$3,205.
He continued targeting grocery shoppers in the months that followed.
On Mar 25 last year, he stole an S$800 iPhone 7 and an OCBC Frank Visa credit card from a man who had left them in his trolley at Giant supermarket in VivoCity.
Goh also used the credit card to buy an iPhone X worth S$1,888 and a case worth S$29.
RETURNED TO THE SAME SUPERMARKET, FOUND ANOTHER VICTIM
Less than a month after this on Apr 13, 2018, Goh returned to the same supermarket at VivoCity where he chanced upon another unattended shopping cart.
A woman had left her handbag inside the trolley and walked off to look for some groceries.
Goh stole her Hermes handbag, which contained a Chanel wallet with several credit cards and cash in different currencies, valued at a total of about S$2,450. He also used one of her cards to buy an iPhone X valued at S$1,888.
His spree continued at a different grocery store - an NTUC FairPrice outlet in Marine Parade - on May 6 last year.
This time, Goh stole a handbag from a woman who had left it unattended in her shopping cart.
The handbag contained a Lacoste wallet, a Google Pixel XL phone, cash in different currencies and multiple credit cards worth at least S$260 in total, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Pei Wei.
Goh used one of the credit cards to buy two iPhone X sets worth a total of S$3,776.
Goh had also committed various other offences, including stealing a wallet from a multi-storey car park, signing up for telco subscription contracts and selling off the phones from those contracts.
He also met up with a woman he got to know through a social media application and stole her phone on the pretext of borrowing it for a call.
COMMITTED 59 OFFENCES IN HALF A YEAR
In total, Goh committed 59 offences across six months from Nov 14, 2017 to May 13, 2018, said the prosecutor.
The total losses across all charges amounted to about S$30,427, court documents said.
All the shoppers who had been stolen from had made police reports, and Goh was arrested after being placed on the police's wanted list.
When he was arrested, the Hermes handbag and a Mercedes-Benz car key were found on him along with cash and some jewellery receipts. No restitution has been made.
Goh pleaded guilty to 17 charges, mostly for theft and cheating, with another 42 taken into consideration.
The prosecutor on Wednesday urged the court to sentence Goh to a minimum of seven years' preventive detention, saying his offences had escalated from the last conviction.
His lawyer Wee Woon Hong asked instead for five years' jail, saying there was no escalation and that the credit cards had been "found from belongings that were unattended" in supermarkets.
"The accused picked them up by chance," said the lawyer, adding that there was no premeditation and that there was a lack of sophistication.
THERE IS SCOPE FOR REFORM: JUDGE
District Judge Mathew Joseph said he noted that Goh had reoffended, although not immediately after his release.
He said the court was "not satisfied that this is a case which calls for preventive detention".
Preventive detention is a harsh punishment that places a recalcitrant offender in jail for seven to 20 years in order to protect the public from the offender.
Corrective training, on the other hand, is for the reformation of the accused, and the judge said he was of the view that there is scope to work towards Goh's reform.
Offenders sentenced to corrective training do not get the usual one-third remission for good behaviour.
"I've also noted in particular the reasons as to why he has committed the offences, which was to raise funds for his wife to pay for her medical expenses," said the judge.
"I also noted that he was gainfully employed when released from the last stint of corrective training, and he had committed these offences when his employer had not paid him his salary.
"He was also stressed by the need to raise funds for his wife's medical expenses," said the judge.
"This is not to condone his actions, but the court can empathise ... (with) his frustrations."
He told Goh that the programmes under the corrective training scheme are geared towards helping him get back on his feet after his release and to reintegrate back into society.