He would go to retail stores and pretend to make a purchase. When the sales staff passed him change, he would kick up a fuss and demand to have only “new notes”.
While sifting through the notes, he would pocket some of the money with sleight of hand. Over eight days, he repeated the ruse on 10 occasions and filched a total of S$3,344.50, achieving, in the words of the prosecutor, “considerable success in his crime”.
Today (June 4), Chinese national Zhou Wei, 44, was jailed for 14 months for 10 counts of theft committed from April 13 to 20 this year. The prosecution proceeded with three charges, while the remaining were taken into consideration during his sentencing.
The court heard that Zhou, who was self-employed in China at the time of his offences, arrived in Singapore on April 13 and immediately started his stealing spree. He struck at retail shops around Orchard Road, Bugis, Upper Cross Street and Changi Airport, duping sales staff of between S$30 and S$1,050 each time. On several occasions, he even went over to the cash register to sieve through stacks of notes on his own. He would pretend to drop the notes and, while the staff bent over to pick them up, swiftly pocket some of the money handed to him earlier.
The court heard that on one occasion, when retail staff at a cosmetics store in 313 Somerset shopping mall rejected his request to “break” a S$1,000 bill into S$50 notes, he scolded the employee and removed a whole stack of S$50 notes from the cashier tray.
Pressing for a custodial sentence of six to eight months on each charge proceeded with, deputy public prosecutor Elton Tan said Zhou’s offences had been organised and premeditated, and he had preyed on the trust of retail staff, most of whom were willing to provide him with new notes.
In mitigation, Zhou, who was unrepresented, said he had realised his mistake and was willing to compensate the “innocent victims”. The offences were committed in desperation, he claimed, as he had lost all his money at the casinos here and needed money for his wife’s medical expenses and son’s school fees. “I had no choice but to do this,” he said.
In sentencing, district judge Luke Tan noted that there had been “obvious plotting” in Zhou’s offences. “The fact that you kept doing it again and again is something I cannot ignore,” said the judge.