SINGAPORE — Upset that his allocation of Budget 2020 grocery vouchers had seemingly not been delivered, Alvin Law Choon Huat decided to steal them from his neighbours’ mailboxes.
When the 47-year-old’s vouchers were finally delivered, he used some and burnt the remainder as an offering to his late wife.
Law, who is unemployed, was jailed for four weeks on Thursday (7 January) after he pleaded guilty to two out of four counts of theft, with the remaining two taken into consideration for sentencing.
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.
In early October last year, Law came to know about the vouchers from social media and went to check his mailbox.
When he failed to see any in his own mailbox, he became upset and decided to check the other mailboxes at Block 51 Marine Terrace. He also decided that he would steal the others’ vouchers.
Between 1 to 14 October, Law targetted mailboxes that were not secured or damaged. He peered into the letterboxes and would remove envelopes when he saw them. Over this period he stole four envelopes containing $600 worth of vouchers in total.
While Law initially stole the vouchers as he felt he had been treated unfairly by not receiving his share of them, he in fact received his allotment a few days after he began stealing others’ vouchers.
Instead of returning the stolen vouchers, Law used them – along with his own – to purchase groceries and an electric anti-dust mite vacuum.
He then burnt the remainder of the unused vouchers as an offering to his late wife. Law was arrested on 29 October and no restitution has been made for the stolen vouchers.
Call for deterrent sentence
Seeking a jail term of at least four weeks, Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim said that although the sum of all four charges was not a significant value, the increase in voucher theft called for a deterrent sentence.
“When offences are committed against (less well-off Singaporeans), it does result in significant harm not just to the individuals but also to the government, who have to subsidise the cost of such vouchers,” said DPP Lim.
DPP Lim then pointed out that Law had committed the offences out of greed and maliciousness, as he was unhappy that he had not received the vouchers.
Addressing the court through an interpreter, Law said, “I know that by doing so I have made a mistake. I hope your honour will be lenient with me. If I have to be sentenced to a jail term I need to get my medicine as well as to settle some family matters.”
Law claimed he has high blood pressure and was also on strong painkillers for a spinal cord condition that he underwent surgery for in 2015.
He told the court that after he had received his own vouchers, he had not known what to do.
“I did not know how to handle it. If I brought them to the police, I would be arrested. So I mixed them together. I bought a little food for my family and the rest I burnt. I know that by doing so I made a mistake,” he told District Judge Edgar Foo.
He requested to have his jail term deferred to after Chinese New Year to care for his 17-year-old daughter.
Theft carries a maximum jail term of up to three years, a fine, or both.
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