Jail for 4 members of shoplifting syndicate

One of the four shoplifters in a police van. She and three other Vietnamese stole more than 1,400 items from various Uniqlo stores.
One of the four shoplifters in a police van. She and three other Vietnamese stole more than 1,400 items from various Uniqlo stores.SHIN MIN DAILY FILE PHOTO

They stole nearly $45,000 worth of items by putting them in aluminium-lined bags to evade electronic sensors

She is pregnant and the ringleader of a shoplifting syndicate which stole more than 1,400 items worth nearly $45,000 in total from stores in Singapore in what is believed to be one of the biggest hauls ever by such a gang.

The Vietnamese woman and three of her compatriots were jailed yesterday after they each pleaded guilty to two counts of being in possession of fraudulently obtained items and one charge of theft.

The ringleader, Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, 31, was sentenced to one year and 11 months' jail while another woman, Tran Thi Phuong Thao, 29, will be spending a year and 10 months behind bars.

Two men - Duong Tuan Dat, 27 and Van Tu Nguyen, 30 - got the same sentence as the ringleader.

The court heard that all four were in Vietnam when they hatched a plan to come to Singapore, steal from Uniqlo stores and sell the loot when they returned home.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Shana Poon said that before arriving in Singapore, the group had prepared special shopping bags lined with aluminium to ensure that electronically tagged items taken from any store would not trigger its sensor alarms.

Nguyen settled the group's expenses, including air tickets, and the four arrived in Singapore on Sept 13 this year.

Two days later, all four went to Downtown East shopping mall in Pasir Ris at around 1.30pm.

Tran waited some distance away from a Uniqlo outlet in the mall and she had two empty suitcases on hand to receive the stolen items.

The ringleader and Van handed multiple pieces of winter clothing to Duong who placed them in the aluminium-lined bags.

Duong then walked out of the store and passed the items to Tran.

They repeated this process several times, said DPP Poon.

The crime was uncovered when a security alarm went off while Duong was walking out with more stolen items.

Van shouted at him to run and Duong managed to flee when pursued by Uniqlo's employees.

The police were alerted and all four were arrested in a room at a Chin Swee Road hotel on Sept 16.

Officers seized 818 stolen pieces of clothing worth more than $21,000.

All the items were from various Uniqlo outlets islandwide.

Police escorted Van to a room at another hotel, in Jiak Chuan Road near Chinatown, four days later and found a further 636 pieces of clothing worth more than $23,000.

The four Vietnamese were unrepresented in court yesterday, and Van told District Judge Jill Tan he intends to appeal against his sentence.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2018, with the headline 'Jail for 4 members of shoplifting syndicate'. Print Edition | Subscribe