Serial offender jailed for 15 months for stealing from wet markets and hawker centres

An unemployed man who stole nearly $2,000 from various food centres and market stalls all over the island was jailed for 15 months on Friday.

Yeo Mong Seng, 62, had pleaded guilty to 10 charges of theft involving amounts between $5 and over $400 from food centres and wet markets in Ang Mo Kio, Hougang, Telok Blangah, Circuit Road and Clementi. The offences were committed between July and October this year.

A district court heard that Yeo stole to sustain his living expenses after his release from prison in April this year. He would take public transport to various locations to study the layout of different wet markets and hawker centres before stealing from these places. Yeo would exchange the coins he stole for notes at a coffeeshop in Geylang. He would spend the money on food, beer, cigarettes, prostitutes and transport. His crime spree ended when police arrested him on Oct 31.

District Judge Low Wee Ping, who took 30 other charges including four house-breaking offences into consideration, said Yeo appeared to be a serial offender, targeting food centres and market stalls although the amounts he stole were relatively small.

He gave Yeo a last chance by imposing a jail sentence instead of preventive detention sought by the prosecution. Yeo has had previous convictions for mainly theft and running away from a welfare home since 1980. He was last given seven years' preventive detention in 2004 for theft and dishonestly breaking open closed receptacles.