SINGAPORE - 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 on Monday (Dec 17) after they each pleaded guilty to two counts of being in possession of fraudulently obtained items and one theft charge.
The ringleader, Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, 31, was sentenced to one year and 11 months' jail, and 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 - received 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 prepared special shopping bags lined with aluminium to ensure that items taken from any store would not trigger its sensor alarms.
Nguyen settled the group's expenses, including air tickets, and they entered 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 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 them 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 the loot. Van shouted at him to run and Duong managed to flee despite being pursued by Uniqlo's employees.
The police were alerted and all four were arrested in a room at a hotel in Chin Swee Road on Sept 16.
Officers seized 818 stolen pieces of clothing worth more than $21,000. All the items were stolen 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 another 636 pieces of clothing worth more than $23,000.
The four Vietnamese nationals were unrepresented in court on Monday and Van told District Judge Jill Tan that he intends to appeal against his sentence.