Singapore man jailed for stealing Budget 2020 grocery vouchers with wife who had protection order against him

Zooming in on letterboxes with unsecured flaps, Zulkeflei Mohamed Yatim and Tanty Yohaida Samad inserted a clothes hanger through the flaps to fish out envelopes containing S$10,800 worth of vouchers. — Singapore Police Force pic via TODAY
Zooming in on letterboxes with unsecured flaps, Zulkeflei Mohamed Yatim and Tanty Yohaida Samad inserted a clothes hanger through the flaps to fish out envelopes containing S$10,800 worth of vouchers. — Singapore Police Force pic via TODAY

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SINGAPORE, June 16 — Months after assaulting his 21-year-old stepson, Zulkeflei Mohamed Yatim turned to stealing S$10,800 (RM33,531) worth of Budget 2020 grocery vouchers from letterboxes at his Marsiling public housing block.

Zulkeflei committed theft with his wife, who had earlier taken out a personal protection order against him.

Today, Zulkeflei was jailed 84 weeks — or about one year and seven months. 

His sentence was backdated to Oct 16 last year, when he was held on remand.

The 42-year-old pleaded guilty to 16 charges of theft and voluntarily causing hurt, with 58 similar charges taken into consideration during sentencing.

Court documents did not state why his wife Tanty Yohaida Samad, 45, had applied for a protection order against him. It was issued in February last year, three months before he assaulted his stepson, and was still in effect when they committed the voucher theft.

In April, Tanty was jailed 48 weeks, or about 11 months, for her role in the theft. 

The court heard that on May 17 last year, Zulkeflei’s stepson Muhammad Zuhairie Adely Zulkifl accompanied his mother Tanty to collect some items from Zulkeflei.

This was during the circuit breaker from April to June last year, when movement and activities were restricted to contain the spread of Covid-19. People were allowed to leave their homes only for essential activities.

The pair got into a dispute with Zulkeflei, whom they did not expect would be at the flat. 

They later fled and Zulkeflei chased them, punching his stepson once on the face.

Zuhairie fell backwards and Zulkeflei choked him and punched him a few more times.

Tanty tried to pull Zulkeflei away, but failed. He then pushed her on the forehead and grabbed her hand.

Mother and son sought medical treatment at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun.

Voucher theft

In October last year, Zulkeflei and Tanty began using clothes hangers as hooks to steal grocery vouchers.

The government-issued vouchers, unveiled during the Budget statement in February last year, had been mailed to 150,000 Singaporeans from low-income households living in one-room and two-room flats to help with their expenses. 

The couple stole them from 72 people, many of whom were seniors. 

Tanty and Zulkeflei also received the vouchers themselves. 

Knowing that fellow residents in their block would likely be recipients as well, Tanty floated the idea of stealing the vouchers from their neighbours.

Zulkeflei agreed.

They began digging into the letterboxes in the wee hours of the morning, usually after midnight, to avoid detection.

Focusing on letterboxes with unsecured flaps, they inserted a clothes hanger through the flaps to fish out envelopes containing the vouchers. 

Each envelope had 15 vouchers, each valued at S$10.

If this method failed, Zulkeflei would use pliers to break open the letterboxes.

Tanty kept a lookout for passers-by while he put the letters into his bag. 

The couple eventually branched out to their neighbouring block.

They used the vouchers at supermarkets, including a Sheng Siong store in Marsiling and NTUC FairPrice supermarkets at Jem and Nex shopping centres.

Among the items they bought were Vivo mobile phones costing between S$369 and S$599 and an Acer laptop worth S$398. 

They sold the mobile phones and pocketed the cash. They also exchanged some of the vouchers for cash to buy cigarettes.

For each theft charge, Zulkeflei could have faced a jail term of up to three years or a fine, or both.

For voluntarily causing hurt, he could have been jailed for up to three years or fined up to S$5,000, or given both penalties. — TODAY

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