Award-winning NTU prof admits to shoplifting

Er Meng Joo, who has received many engineering awards, stole $435.35 worth of items in January last year.
Er Meng Joo, who has received many engineering awards, stole $435.35 worth of items in January last year.

He will be assessed for suitability for psychiatric treatment

An award-winning professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) pleaded guilty to shoplifting yesterday after he was caught pilfering repeatedly from service stations he frequents.

The court heard that Er Meng Joo, 55, who is a professor in electrical and electronic engineering, shoplifted items worth $453.35 between Jan 9 and 29 last year.

Er, an elected member of NTU's advisory board from 2009 to 2012, stole items such as air fresheners and toiletries from two NTUC FairPrice outlets at Esso service stations in Bukit Timah and Dunearn roads. Er pleaded guilty to two counts of shoplifting items worth $225.15, with five other shoplifting charges involving items worth $228.20 taken into consideration during sentencing.

He was caught after Mr Lam Wing Kin, who manages both stores, reviewed closed-circuit television footage between Jan 28 and 29 last year and noticed Er behaving suspiciously while inside the Dunearn Road outlet.

One clip from Jan 27 showed Er taking some items, including a wall charger and two bottles of mouthwash, and leaving without paying.

A Jan 29 clip showed Er stealing items such as a power bank, two air fresheners and a micro USB cable.

Realising Er was a regular customer, Mr Lam tracked down his name and his car registration details. He lodged a police report on Jan 30 last year and Er admitted to the offences when police turned up at his home.

Yesterday, the court called for a report to assess his suitability for a mandatory treatment order (MTO).

An MTO is for offenders who suffer from psychiatric conditions. They must go for psychiatric treatment in lieu of jail time.

Er will be back in court on May 22.

Er, who has earned many accolades, served as a member of the university's Senate Steering Committee from 2010 to 2012, according to details NTU posted on its website.

He clinched the Most Zealous Professor of the Year Award in 2009 and five years later, the Outstanding Mentor Award.

Er has also won the Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) Prestigious Engineering Achievement Award twice, in 2011 and 2015.

He also received the IES Prestigious Publication Award in Theory in 2001.

For each count of shoplifting, he can be jailed for up to three years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2017, with the headline 'Award-winning NTU prof admits to shoplifting'. Print Edition | Subscribe