Jail for four who stole $120k from money changer

Foreigners flew here with accomplice; each had a role to play in theft

Four "tourists" who stole more than $120,000 in foreign currency from a money changer at Mustafa Centre in August were each jailed between 20 and 22 months yesterday.

Mexicans Chavez Gomez Joel, 35; Salgado Sida Jesus Alfonso, 59; and Olvera Ochoa Laura Daniela, 30, and Chilean Petrovich Petrovich Yobano, 46, all pleaded guilty to theft.

Joel, a construction worker, Alfonso, a food vendor, and Yobano, a scaffolding agent, also admitted to taking the loot out of Singapore.

A district court heard that on Aug 12 this year, the four flew from Laos to Singapore with an accomplice, Martinez Moreno Jesus Manuel, 38.

They went to Mustafa Centre, each having an assigned role to play in an elaborate plan after being briefed separately by Manuel.

Chavez Gomez Joel (left) and Salgado Sida Jesus Alfonso (right)

At about 7.15pm, Joel, who was keeping watch, saw a money changer packing her daily takings of foreign currency, worth more than $122,000, into a plastic bag.

She passed it to a colleague, who then placed the package on a shelf near the entrance of the money changer's premises.

At about 7.50pm, just as the staff left to use the toilet, Manuel went to the metal grille door and placed something on it to prevent it from shutting completely.

He then went to distract a money changer nearby, asking him to go to a counter further away. Manuel held a $2 note with his fingers pointing down as he spoke to the staff.

Alfonso and Yobano took the cue and distracted two other money changers at other counters, engaging them in conversation. Daniela, meanwhile, stood near the metal grille door and, through hand gestures, told Joel to walk over.

Olvera Ochoa Laura Daniela (left) and  Petrovich Petrovich Yobano (right)

He opened the door, stretched out his hand and took the plastic bag containing the money.

The five thieves then made their way to a hotel to split their loot.

Manuel gave part of the sum to Joel, Alfonso and Yobano. Joel received about $17,000 in foreign currency, while Alfonso got about $21,000. Yobano's cut was about $15,500.

The five thieves boarded a flight to Kuala Lumpur at about 12.20pm the next day.

On Aug 21, Joel, Alfonso, Daniela and Yobano were arrested by Malaysian police while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong. They were handed over to Singapore police.

Passing sentence yesterday, District Judge Adam Nakhoda said foreigners who come here to commit crimes have to be dealt with severely. "A strong message has to be sent; we cannot tolerate foreigners who come to Singapore solely for committing crimes," he said.

Daniela was jailed for 20 months, while Joel, Alfonso and Yobano were jailed for 22 months.

Manuel remains at large.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2015, with the headline 'Jail for four who stole $120k from money changer'. Print Edition | Subscribe