Three Mexicans and a Chilean, who robbed a money changer at Mustafa Centre early 2015 of $120,000 in foreign currencies were on Friday (Dec 18) sentenced to 20 and 22 months imprisonment.
Mexicans Chavez Gomez Joel, Salgado Sida Jesus Alfonso, Olvera Ochoa Laura Daniela, 35, 59, and 30 respectively, and Chilean Petrovich Petrovich Yobano, 46, all confessed to theft.
Joel, a construction worker; Alfonso, a food vendor; and Yobano, a scaffolding agent, also pleaded guilty to a count of money laundering out of Singapore.
The case was heard by a district court on Aug 12, 201. The four took a flight from Laos to Singapore. An accomplice, Martinez Moreno Jesus Manuel, 38, was also on the flight with them.
On arrival, they headed to Mustafa Centre, each having been given a role to play in an elaborate plan to steal from the money changer there. Manuel had informed them individually about the plan, and their individual roles.
According to his role, Joel was to keep an eye over the money changer’s counters and the staff. He saw that the woman packed her daily takings of about amounting to $122,424.05 into a plastic bag. That was around 7:15 pm. She handed over the money to her colleague who left the package on a shelf at his counter close to the entrance of the money changer’s premises.
Around 7:50 pm, immediately when the staff went to the restroom, Manuel headed to the metal grille door on the premises of the money changer and put something on the door to stop it from closing completely since the door uses a magnetic locking system.
He later went to distract a nearby money changer by leading him to another counter. Manuel had a $2 note in his hand and pointed down while speaking to the staff.
Alfonso and Yobano followed the signal and diverted the attention of two other money changers at other counters, by discussing with them. Meanwhile, Daniela stood near the metal grille door signaled to Joel to walk over. He opened the door, stretched out his hand, and took the plastic bag containing the money from the shelf. The five foreign thieves then headed to an unknown hotel to share their spoils.
Manuel shared a part of the sum with Joel, Alfonso and Yobano. Joel got about $17,000 in foreign currencies, while Alfonso got about $21,000. Yobano’s cut was about $15,500.
Around 8 pm, the staff returned from the toilet to discover that the money had been stolen. They alerted the police about the theft around 8:50 pm. The next day, the five thieves boarded a flight to Kuala Lumpur around 12.20pm.
On Aug 21, Yobano, Alfonso, Daniela and Joel were detained by Malaysian authorities while attempting to board a flight. They were taken to Singapore, escorted by Singapore police the following day.
In claiming for at least 30 months’ jail for the four, Deputy Public Prosecutor Sean Lee said the offences perpetrated called for a higher level of premeditation.
The accused men were part of a syndicate which had targeted the Mustafa money changer in an extremely coordinated manner.
It was also clear from their brief stay here they had intended to attack hard and fast and after that create a speedy getaway, he added.
The defence lawyer, S.K. Kumar, who the four families of the accused jointly hired pleaded for four months’ jail for Daniela and six months’ jail for the remaining three. He affirmed that the four families had made a full restitution to the money changer.
While delivering judgment, District Judge Adam Nakhoda established that the immigrants that come to Singapore with the intention of committing crimes must be severely dealt with. He declared further that a strong message must be sent that Singapore will not tolerate immigrants that come to Singapore purposely to commit crime.
Meanwhile, Daniela was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment while Yobano, Alfonso, and Joel were given 22 months’ imprisonment. Manuel is still at large.