Teen who booked Airbnb stays to steal from hosts sentenced to reformative training

The court heard that Muhammad Hakim Muhalil, now 18, rented accommodation via platforms like Airbnb to gain access to the other occupants' valuables and steal them. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - A teenager was sentenced to reformative training on Wednesday (Oct 25) after he repeatedly stole from hosts he had booked stays with on on hospitality service providers such as Airbnb.

The court heard that Muhammad Hakim Muhalil, now 18, rented accommodation via such platforms to gain access to the other occupants' valuables and steal them.

The unemployed teenager pleaded guilty on Aug 23 to four theft charges and one count each of housebreaking, mischief and fraudulent possession of property. Fourteen other charges for similar offences were taken into consideration during sentencing.

He committed these offences between September last year and this March, and they involved $41,183.31 in all.

Hakim committed most of them with his then-girlfriend Nor Amelia Natasha Nordin, 20. According to court documents, she has not been dealt with in court.

The couple started their crime spree on Sept 9, last year after they ran away from home together. They sought shelter at a friend's home in Eunos Crescent and Amelia then suggested that they steal items from the unit.

After their hosts left home, the pair stole a Macbook Pro, an iPad2 and $60 in cash from their friend's older brother before fleeing. The items were worth $2,260 in all.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Rimplejit Kaur said Hakim sold the electronics at an unknown shop in Sim Lim Square and the cash was used to make Airbnb bookings. The stolen cash was used to buy meals and to pay for LAN gaming.

After this, the court heard the couple used platforms such as Airbnb and social media to rent accommodation before stealing from their hosts and the other tenants.

In one such incident, they committed housebreaking together in a fourth-storey apartment at Bartley Ridge condominium at Mount Vernon Road on March 9.

They arrived at the unit at around 2pm that day and Hakim paid the host a rental fee of $60 in exchange for the main door key and an access tag.

DPP Kaur said: "After the complainant and his wife had left the unit, at about 3pm, the accused persons began to execute their plan of committing theft of the complainant's belongings in the master bedroom of the unit.

"As the door to the master bedroom was secured, the accused proceeded to the balcony of the unit, where he then climbed over to the air-conditioning ledge located outside the window of the toilet leading into the master bedroom."

Hakim then climbed through the unsecured toilet window, entered the master bedroom and opened the door to allow Amelia in.

They ransacked the room and made off with more than $2,000 worth of valuables including a laptop computer and a camera.

Through follow-up investigations, police arrested the couple in a Jalan Teck Kee unit near Yio Chu Kang Road which they had rented via the Home Away app.

At around 9.15pm on March 21, officers checked the unit and found them inside one of the rooms. The pair were arrested and officers discovered items including pieces of clothing, jewellery and six EZ-Link cards in their possession.

DPP Kaur said some of these items had been stolen from various Airbnb rental units, while others had been bought with the proceeds of their criminal activities.

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

And for each count of theft, he could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.

Offenders sentenced to reformative training have to spend between 18 months and three years in a reformative training centre. They must also follow a strict regimen that includes foot drills and counselling.

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