Jailed for using fake barcodes to cheat stores

Zhang printed barcode stickers showing lower prices, fixed them on items and paid for them at supermarket self-checkout counters.
Zhang printed barcode stickers showing lower prices, fixed them on items and paid for them at supermarket self-checkout counters.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

A provision store owner printed his own barcode stickers, then went to supermarkets and fixed them on various items to obtain them at lower prices, a court heard yesterday.

Zhang Bobo, a 27-year-old Singaporean, was sentenced to six months' jail after admitting to four charges of cheating Giant supermarket of $2,354. Another seven similar charges and two attempted cheating charges were considered during sentencing.

The total amount he cheated between September and November last year was $4,282.

He has since made full restitution. Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani said that Zhang had some financial problems in August last year.

After observing self-checkout counters at various supermarkets, he hatched a plan to make money by re-selling baby milk powder that he bought there on the cheap.

He printed barcode stickers using his store's label printer for a price lower than what was meant to be, then stuck them on the products he wanted before scanning them at the self-checkout counter.

He would scan them as Marigold evaporated milk at $1.25 each.

In the four proceeded charges, he cheated the Giant store in Tampines of a total of $2,354 last November.

He would sell the milk powder tins online to make up for the losses he had suffered in running his provision shop business.

Zhang was caught at Cold Storage supermarket in Eastwood Road on Nov 5 last year when he tried to pay $6 for three tins of milk powder worth $493.

DPP Sanjiv said this was a brazen offence, given the fact that he went on to commit the offence even after being caught.

"A strong signal needs to be sent by way of general deterrence to members of the public that this (self-checkout) system is there for their convenience, and not for their abuse,'' he said.

Zhang's lawyer Michael Han said his client was very remorseful for what he had done. He said the shop Zhang was running was financed by his father, who was pressuring him to return a debt.

District Judge Low Wee Ping, who allowed Zhang to defer his sentence until April 27, noted that the offences were committed with sophistication.

Zhang, who is trying to sell his business, could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined on each charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 31, 2016, with the headline 'Jailed for using fake barcodes to cheat stores'. Print Edition | Subscribe