Man stole almost S$11,000 in coins and notes from 15 laundromats

SINGAPORE: A man stole from his housemate and his colleague, lost his job, then hatched a plan to steal from laundromats before returning to China with the money.

Zhao Huipeng, 26, stole S$10,994 in coins and dollar notes from coin exchange machines in 15 laundromats.

He was sentenced on Wednesday (Nov 2) to 25 weeks’ jail. He pleaded guilty to eight charges of theft and cheating, with another 13 charges taken into consideration.

The court heard that Zhao first stole from his housemate, who had shared with him the PIN for her ATM card.

Needing funds urgently to pay for his family’s bills, Zhao used his housemate’s ATM card to withdraw S$1,000 from her account on Jun 30, 2021.

The withdrawal –  captured on closed-circuit television cameras – was made without the woman’s knowledge and consent.

The next month, Zhao was at his workplace, an electronics firm, when he noticed his colleague’s locker was unlocked.

He looked through the contents of the locker and used his phone to take pictures of a debit card in a wallet, before transferring 1,600 yuan (S$293) to his own digital WeChat wallet.

The colleague lodged a police report four days later.

After this, Zhao lost his job. He needed money and hatched a plan to steal cash from coin exchange machines in unmanned laundromats, before returning to China.

He used the same modus operandi on each occasion: He would visit laundromats late at night, when human traffic was low. He would wear a black cap and white gloves to conceal his identity.

He would also use a screwdriver to pry open coin exchange machines in the laundromats to retrieve notes and coins inside. Zhao usually took less than five minutes to pry the machines open, the court heard.

Between July 2021 and September 2021, he stole S$10,994 from 15 laundromats around Singapore, in locations like Hougang, Bedok and Choa Chu Kang.

His largest haul was S$2,000 in coins and notes from the coin exchange machine at a Mister Wash outlet in Bedok Reservoir Road.

The thefts were captured on CCTV footage, and Zhao’s acts of prying open the coin exchange machines left them with visible signs of damage.

The prosecutor asked for at least 25 weeks’ jail, calling Zhao a “serial thief” and persistent offender who stole from his colleague, housemate and unsuspecting owners of laundromats.