Jailed for stealing bonsai plants worth $12,400

An amateur horticulturist loved bonsai plants so much that he went on a month-long stealing spree, uprooting them from homes and community gardens and then planting them at home to display in pots.

A court heard that Teo Tiong Guan, 51, who was jobless, stole nine miniature trees worth a total of $12,400 because he found them "beautiful".

However, he was jailed for a year after he admitted two charges of house trespass. Three other charges were considered during sentencing.

A district court heard that, on May 17 last year, Teo stole two plants worth $2,000 each from the Yuhua Community Centre's bonsai garden after spotting them while walking past three days earlier.

The gate to the garden was locked, so he reached over the surrounding brick wall.

He transferred both plants from their pots into plastic bags he had brought along, and put the pots back into the garden.

At 3am on May 19, Teo stole another bonsai plant worth $300 from an 11th floor unit at Block 261 Jurong East Street 21.

At around midnight that day, he also went back to the Yuhua Community Centre garden to steal two other bonsai plants worth $3,500 in total.

The next day he used a metal cutting tool to steal two $300 plants from the Residents' Corner Garden on the ground floor beside Block 223A Jurong East Street 21.

On June 15, Teo again stole two more bonsai plants, worth $2,000 each, from the Yuhua Community Centre garden.

Teo was arrested at his flat on July 23 after the community centre's manager reported the missing plants to police and Teo was spotted on closed-circuit television.

For house trespass to commit theft, Teo, who has a string of convictions for theft dating back to 1981, could have been jailed for seven years and fined.

For theft, he could have been jailed for three years and fined.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2016, with the headline 'Jailed for stealing bonsai plants worth $12,400'. Print Edition | Subscribe