44 year-old PRC Zhou Wei used a magician’s trick known as the “sleight of hand” to steal more than $3,300 from retail staff throughout Singapore. He was sentenced to 14 months jail today after he pleaded guilty to 3 counts of theft in dwelling, with 7 other charges taken into consideration.

He had committed 10 such offences in total within the first 8 days of arriving in Singapore since 13th April.

Zhou had devised a way to steal cash from cash registers by pretending to help cashiers check their registers for new dollar notes. He committed one of his offences on 16th April by pretending to make payment for a necklace at a store in Bugis Junction. After receiving mostly S$10 notes in change, he asked for a S$50 note instead as he claimed he wanted to give it to his son for his birthday.

As the cashier looked through her cash register and safe, Zhou then began to inspect the notes from the cash register and safe himself without being stopped by the cashier. Unbeknown to the cashier, Zhou pocketed about S$1,050 from there.

In his defence, Zhou said he was in Singapore to look for a friend who owed him money, but after failing to find this person, he decided to commit theft in Singapore “out of greed”. He claims that he told police officers he was wiling to return the money and compensate him victims, but prosecutors pointed out that Zhou was simply lying because he had made no such statements in official police reports.

Zhou also spun tales about his committing offences after losing all his money at the casinos in Singapore, which he says were meant for his wife’s medical expenses. He says that his wife is suffering from breast cancer and that his son was about to enter university. Zhou also claimed that he is the sole breadwinner of the family and would not be able to provide for his family if he was sent to jail.

However, the prosecution put together evidence to prove that Zhou had arrived in Singapore with the intention to steal from Singaporeans.

For each charge, Zhou could have faced a maximum of seven years’ jail and be liable to a fine.

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