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Jail for woman who used fishing hook to steal Budget 2020 grocery vouchers from letterboxes

SINGAPORE — A food delivery rider who used a pen and fishing hook to steal S$450 worth of grocery vouchers from letterboxes was jailed eight months and four weeks on Thursday (Nov 18).

Jail for woman who used fishing hook to steal Budget 2020 grocery vouchers from letterboxes

Asmah Isnin, 35, was jailed for stealing S$450 worth of grocery vouchers in October 2020.

  • Asmah Isnin, 35, was convicted of stealing S$450 worth of grocery vouchers from letterboxes
  • She stole the vouchers, which were meant for Singaporeans living in one- to two-room flats
  • This was shortly after receiving her own 
  • Her lawyer said Asmah used the vouchers to fill her home’s “empty fridge”
     

SINGAPORE — A food delivery rider who used a pen and fishing hook to steal S$450 worth of grocery vouchers from letterboxes was jailed eight months and four weeks on Thursday (Nov 18). 

Asmah Isnin, 35, had pleaded guilty in January this year to three counts of theft involving three victims.

She had struck twice in a week in October last year, targeting letterboxes at Block 124 Kim Tian Place in Bukit Merah.

The grocery vouchers had been mailed to 150,000 Singaporeans, including Asmah, to help with household expenses. They were announced in the Unity Budget in February last year.

Singaporeans aged 21 and above last year who live in one-room and two-room Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, and do not own more than one property, were eligible recipients. They got S$150 worth of vouchers in October and S$150 worth of vouchers in December.

USED STOLEN VOUCHERS FOR FOOD

Asmah’s lawyer SS Dhillon said on Thursday that she had used the vouchers to buy food for herself and her 63-year-old father who is unemployed because he has diabetes and stage 4 cancer. 

He added that Asmah lives alone with her father in a one-room HDB flat and she is the sole provider, earning S$1,200 a month.  

A month after committing the offence, Asmah saw a doctor at the Institute of Mental Health.

She was later diagnosed with borderline to mild intellectual disability with behavioural issues and an unspecified psychotic disorder, the lawyer added.

Mr Dhillon stressed, however, that the doctor did not find that her condition had contributed to her committing the act.

“She’s of poor means, did not cause any damage and after committing the theft, she used the (vouchers) for food to fill her house’s empty fridge,” he said, pleading with the judge to consider her medical history.

PAST HISTORY OF STEALING

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Joseph Gwee highlighted that Asmah has had several theft convictions dating back to 2005. For example, in 2015, she was jailed six months for stealing an electric bicycle worth S$1,300.

In Oct 31, 2019, she was convicted of two counts of theft for which she was given five months’ jail for each charge. 

The theft of the grocery vouchers in the present case was committed eight months after she was released on Feb 10 last year, DPP Gwee said.

The prosecution sought 10 months’ jail, while the defence sought six months.

In sentencing Asmah, District Judge Prem Raj said that it is in the public interest to deter the theft of such vouchers from other needy people. 

He also ordered that Asmah and her father attend a community court conference that would help correct the root cause of her offending behaviour and to direct her father to any agency that might be helpful to support him while Asmah is in jail.

ABOUT THE CASE

In October last year, Asmah went around peeking through the flaps of her neighbours' letterboxes a few days after receiving her own vouchers.

She saw two sets of vouchers, belonging to a couple who had moved out, in one letterbox.

She used a makeshift device comprising a pen, fishing hook and sticky tape to retrieve the vouchers.

The couple later called the Health Promotion Board phone line to ask about their vouchers. The agency told them that the vouchers had been sent to their old residential address and had already been used.

Around the same time, Asmah stole a 57-year-old resident’s vouchers from the same housing block. When the victim called Tiong Bahru Community Centre to ask about them, she learnt that her vouchers had already been used.

Asmah was arrested on Oct 16 last year after the police identified her through closed-circuit television footage.

The victims have since applied to the authorities for replacement vouchers.

For each theft charge, she could be jailed up to three years or fined, or both.

Related topics

court crime grocery vouchers steal letterboxes

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