Four Colombians jailed 12 months each for housebreaking spree in Singapore

Wan Ting Koh

Four Colombian nationals who came to Singapore on a housebreaking spree were each sentenced to 12 months’ jail on Tuesday (22 August).

Puentes Entralgo Yuli Caterine, 27, and Gonzalez Gonzalez Alvaro, 32, – who are married to each other – Ordonez Saenz Andres, 41, and Sandoval Rivera Edgar Alberto, 44, were each convicted on one charge of housebreaking. Two other counts of housebreaking were taken into account for sentencing.

The four arrived in Singapore on 2 May this year with the “common intention to commit a series of housebreaking offences” in order to steal from landed properties here, according to the prosecution.

To carry out their plan, Caterine rented a Mercedes car from 3 May to 8 May for the group to travel around housing estates in without raising any suspicious. “This would in turn ensure the smooth carrying out of the housebreaking and theft operations,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Marcus Foo. The four bought tools to assist with the housebreaking, such as a crowbar, and would force their way through the sliding door of the landed houses.

On 4 May, between 3.15pm and 6.10pm, the four went to Chancery Lane at Bukit Timah where they broke into a house and stole a gem stone, $2000 in cash, two Seiko watches and one Pryngeps watch worth $720.60.

When the group attempted to break into another house two days later, their act was captured by a CCTV camera.

On 6 May, Alvaro drove the rented car and alighted the three others along Muswell Hill in Braddell Heights estate around 7.30pm. While Alvaro waited in the car, Caterine, Andres and Alberto scaled the wall of their targetted house and used the crowbar to force open the sliding door next to the main door of the house.

Upon entering the house, the trio ransacked it for valuable items but were unable to find any. They did, however, find a CCTV in the house and got cold feet. The three then left the house and returned to where Alvaro was waiting in the car, and the four departed.

The owner of the house, Roland Janssen Jozef, who had left the house with his family around 4pm that day, returned home at 10pm to find that his sliding door had been forced open. He also discovered that a drawer in his living room and a laundry basket on the second floor had been ransacked. Jozef filed a police report. His CCTV captured Caterine, Andres and Alberto in the house.

The next day, the four broke into another house at Jalan Eunos at around 4.45pm. The group then bought bus tickets to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and were about to depart at Tampines Central when they were arrested by the police.

DPP Foo sought a sentence of at least 12 months for each of the accused persons, stating that it was particularly aggravating for foreigners to come into Singapore specifically to commit offences. He added that there was significant planning involved and that the group took steps to avoid detection by hiring a vehicle.

In mitigation, each of the four, who are unrepresented, apologised through a Spanish interpreter and asked for forgiveness. Caterine and Alvaro have two young children in Colombia whom Gonzalez said are currently under the care of a neighbour. Alberto, who also has children in Colombia, said he “didn’t know what went through our head when they committed the crimes”. Andres asked for help to return to their home country.

District Judge (DJ) Kessler Soh noted that it was the first time the four were committing offences and said he hoped it “would be the last time”. “Some of you have children, you need to be good examples to your children,” the DJ said.

For housebreaking by night, each of the four could have been jailed up to three years and fined on each charge.