SINGAPORE — After receiving her Budget 2020 grocery vouchers, a woman decided to steal those from other letterboxes.
Using a device consisting of a fishing hook, a pen, and sticky tape, Asmah Isnin, 34, fished out three other sets of vouchers worth a total of $450.
Appearing in court in a wheelchair and clutching a crutch on Friday (15 January), Asmah pleaded guilty to three charges of theft – her latest in a string of property-related offences dating back to 2005.
She pleaded with District Judge Prem Raj to order her sentence to commence after an orthopaedic surgery, scheduled in three days’ time. Her condition was not divulged in court.
The Budget 2020 grocery voucher scheme was targetted at helping less well-off Singaporeans with their household expenses due to the economic difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those eligible would receive an envelope containing 15 vouchers worth a total of $150.
According to the prosecution, Asmah, a food delivery rider, received her vouchers in October. She then went to the letterboxes at Block 124 Kim Tian Place to see if these contained the vouchers.
She saw that one unit contained two sets of envelopes with the vouchers, and used her improvised device to fish out the vouchers belonging to a couple. These were valued at $300.
The victims – a male delivery rider and his wife – had previously lived at the address to which their vouchers were mailed and had moved out.
On 12 October last year, the man made a police report stating that his vouchers were not delivered to him. He had made an enquiry with the Health Promotion Board hotline after the rest of his family members had received their vouchers. He was told that the vouchers had been mailed to his previous address and they had been used.
The third victim was a woman who had called Tiong Bahru Community Centre for help after discovering that the rest of her neighbours had received their vouchers but she had not.
She was then informed that her vouchers had been used and was advised to make a police report.
Asmah’s identity was traced through CCTV footage, and she was arrested on 16 October. Her improvised device was also seized.
She did not make restitution for the stolen vouchers and the victims have since applied for replacement vouchers.
Asmah had previously been convicted of fraudulent possession of property, theft, theft in dwelling, and theft of motor vehicle component.
In 2015, she was jailed nine months after stealing an electric bicycle worth $1,300 and groceries worth $38. In 2019, she stole EarPods worth $65 and a power bank valued at $35. She was jailed five months for these offences.
Citing these antecedents, Deputy Public Prosecutor Joseph Gwee sought a jail term of 10 months with a mind on specific deterrence as the main sentencing consideration.
“Her record shows a pattern of offending. In particular, taking into account the timeframe of the offences, the accused’s property-related offences occured for about a period of 15 years from 2005 to date. This is indication that she has qualities of a habitual offender,” said DPP Gwee. Asmah had also demonstrated premeditation and preparation by using an improvised device.
Asmah asked the court for her sentencing to be adjourned for her operation and because her father was “not well”.
Her sentencing has been adjourned to 19 February. For theft, she faces a jail term of up to three years, or a fine, or both.
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