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Man who stole prayer items from 13 altars fined $2,000

Yahoo News logo Yahoo News 12/10/2021 Wan Ting Koh

SINGAPORE — Over a few weeks, a man went around to 13 different locations within housing estates to steal prayer items left outside residential units or coffeeshops.

In total, Lee Hong Keong, 51, stole $1,110 worth of 15 prayer items, comprising two prayer cauldrons, four prayer urns, a metal joss stick holder, four joss stick holders, an incense holder, and three joss stick urns.

Lee, unemployed, was fined $2,000 on Tuesday (12 October) after he pleaded guilty to an amalgamated charge of theft, with another count of theft and dishonest misappropriation of property considered for sentencing. If Lee cannot pay the fine, he will have to serve one week's jail in default.

Between 21 May and 7 June this year, the police received numerous reports from 13 victims relating to the theft of prayer items that were placed outside of houses or in the coffeeshops. These were relating to incidents occurring around the same period.

Between 20 May and 7 June, Lee visited 13 locations in Telok Blangah, Jalan Bukit Merah and Silat Avenue housing estates where he stole prayer items left hanging or placed outside HDB units and coffeeshops.

He stole the 15 items and sold them to a metal scrap shop at Desker Road. He then spent the money to buy 4D and lottery tickets, while spending the remaining on his meals and daily expenses. None of the items were recovered and Lee did not make restitution.

The police traced Lee’s identity and arrested him on 7 June.

State Prosecuting Officer Mohd Nasri Haron initially sought a jail term. However, District Judge Wong Li Tein ruled that the offence did not warrant a jail term due to the amount involved and his lack of criminal history for theft.

In mitigation, Lee said through an interpreter that he did not have money and was awaiting an operation for a growth on his leg.

For theft, Lee could have been jailed up to three years, and/or fined.

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