Four Vietnamese nationals hatched a plan to travel to Singapore for the sole purpose of stealing from clothing chain Uniqlo, a court heard.
The two men and two women targeted Singapore as they didn’t need visas to travel here, and they heard that Uniqlo stores didn’t attach sensor tags on many items. They wanted to sell the items back home.
Using improvised shopping bags with aluminium lining to avoid setting off sensor alarms, the Vietnamese carted out 1,454 pieces of apparel worth $44,755.10 from the retail chain on a few occasions in September.
The haul was so large that when police tracked the thieves down, the Vietnamese were unable to recall which Uniqlo outlets they had taken the items from.
At the State Courts on Monday (17 December), the two men, Van Tu Nguyen, 30, and Duong Tuan Dat, 27, and two women, Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, 31, and Tran Thi Phuong Thao, 29, were all jailed for their crimes. Each pleaded guilty to one charge of theft and two charges of fraudulent possession of property.
Van, Duong and Nguyen were each jailed for one year and 11 months, while Tran was jailed for one year and 10 months.
Group used special ‘shopping’ bags, empty luggage bags
The group’s ringleader, Nguyen, would pick out the items to steal. She paid for the group’s air tickets, accommodation, meals and expenses.
Duong would transport the items out of the stores. Van and Tran would look after the stolen items, which would be placed in luggage bags. Van would sometimes help keep a lookout or take items out of the stores.
On 15 September, the thieves went to Downtown East. Duong carried two improvised bags and walked into a Uniqlo store there with Van and Nguyen. Tran waited some distance away from the store, ready to pick up the loot in two empty luggage bags.
Van and Nguyen stole 50 pieces of winter wear worth $4,995 in total. They would hand the clothes to Duong and he would place them in their special bags, exit the store, and then pass the stolen items to Tran for her to keep in the luggage bags. Duong walked in and out of the store several times.
About one hour into their heist, the security panel at the store exit was activated. A Uniqlo staff member saw Duong walking out when Van shouted at him to run. The staff gave chase but lost sight of the two men.
Police arrested the four thieves in their room at Hotel Re in Chin Swee Road the next day. They found 818 pieces of clothing worth $21,583.70. The culprits could only say that they had gone to various Uniqlo outlets by taxi and that only Nguyen would tell the cabbies where to go.
Police also found a key to a room at Hotel 81 in Chinatown. On 20 September, officers brought Van to the budget hotel, where the group had kept four luggage bags with 636 pieces of Uniqlo clothing worth $23,171.40.
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