Man who pretended to be police officer to steal from masseuse's house jailed 14 months

Hideyoshi Tanaka, 28, a Singaporean, pleaded guilty to a charge of house-breaking to commit theft and a count of theft.
Hideyoshi Tanaka, 28, a Singaporean, pleaded guilty to a charge of house-breaking to commit theft and a count of theft.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A self-employed man who pretended to be a police officer to break into the home of a masseuse to steal was jailed for 14 months on Thursday (Jan 28).

Hideyoshi Tanaka, 28, a Singaporean, pleaded guilty to a charge of house-breaking to commit theft and a count of theft.

He also admitted to a charge of pretending to be a public servant, which was taken into consideration during sentencing.

A district court heard that on the afternoon of March 31, last year, Tanaka introduced his friend Gabriel Foo Junxian, 20, to another friend Rigel Douglas Wong, 24.

At about 10pm that same day, the trio met up again at an Internet gaming cafe near Paya Lebar MRT station.

There, they jointly hatched a plan to rob illegal prostitutes. They would rush into a victim's home and assault her before stealing from her home.

Wong took down some contact numbers of illegal prostitutes from the website, and started contacting them.

When a 35-year-old masseuse, who communicated her massage services through the mobile phone app WeChat, indicated that she was available, the trio headed to her landed home in the Balestier area.

At about 2am on April 1, Wong called the woman to let her know that he was at her door. She opened it, but saw Tanaka and Foo standing near the tree outside her home.

Before they could rush in, she closed the door after Wong entered. He then came up with an excuse to leave and met up with his friends.

This time, the trio agreed that Foo would enter the masseuse's home first, on the pretext of wanting her massage services. All three would then identify themselves as police officers, with Foo flashing his ITE identity card.

The woman initially rejected Foo's request for her massage services over the phone. But she agreed when he offered to pay $300.

After looking through her living room window, and confirming that he was alone, she opened her door to let Foo in.

But before she could close it, Wong and Tanaka appeared and forced the door open. Wong punched the masseuse's face a few times.

Foo also pushed her to make her sit on a sofa, showed her his ITE card, and told her that he was a police officer.

The trio then took a $600 Samsung S3 mobile phone, a $150 Nokia mobile phone, and $300 in cash from her bedroom.

They also took a $1,000 Samsung S4 mobile phone, a $950 iPhone 4, and a $700 iPad Mini from the bedroom of the victim's 40-year-old housemate.

The masseuse, who had a mobile phone with her, called the police. When the thieves saw her doing so, they fled.

The trio sold the stolen items at a second-hand shop in Geylang.

The housemate, who was in the toilet when the incident occurred, saw the masseuse bleeding from her nose and the trio fleeing from the home.

The victim was diagnosed with minor head injury and bleeding in her left eye. She was discharged from hospital with pain medications.

Urging the court to impose a jail term of 15 to 18 months, Deputy Public Prosecutor Selene Yap noted that there was a "significant amount of premeditation" involved, and that the victim was vulnerable.

In mitigation, pro bono lawyer Sadhana Rai said Wong played an "instrumental role in looking for the prostitutes... and in coming up with the plan (to rob them)"; Tanaka was initially reluctant to participate, but he eventually agreed to be part of the plan.

Tanaka also did not hit the victim, unlike his friends.

After Wong sold off the stolen items and Foo split the money equally, Tanaka also refused to take his portion and Foo kept it instead, said Ms Rai.

She asked the court to impose a jail term of no more than 12 months.

District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim sentenced Tanaka to a total of 14 months' jail, with the sentence backdated to June 10, when he was last remanded.

Foo was sentenced to probation for his role last year. Wong remains at large.

For housebreaking to commit theft, Tanaka could have been jailed for up to 10 years.

For theft in a home, he could have been jailed for up to seven years, and fined.

The maximum penalty for pretending to be a public servant and committing an offence under such pretext is up to 2 years' jail and a fine.