They're caught after selling them for $2,500
HEAVY LOAD: Nine beams similar to these were taken from a construction site. PICTURE: AFP
METAL thefts had soared two years ago.
Thieves were ripping out guard-rails and even manhole covers.
But lorry driver Chia Lay Seng and his accomplice made off with something much bigger - steel beams meant for construction.
They stole nine used steel beams weighing about half a tonne in total.
They weren't the easiest thing to steal - or hide.
Yet Chia and Timyati Kamis managed to get away with the beams from a construction site, and sell them to a second-hand scrap metal dealer for $2,500.
Chia had helped Timyati, a safety officer with Yongnam Engineering and Construction, to load the nine high-tensile beams onto a lorry at an MRT Circle Line construction site in Buona Vista in April 2007.
It was not mentioned in court papers how the duo managed to get the beams onto the lorry.
Chia drove a lorry for Hiap Hong Transport and was employed by Yongnam under a sub-contract.
He left the construction site by an exit which he knew was not manned by security guards.
Chia then drove straight to a second-hand scrap metal dealer at Defu Lane and sold the beams for about $2,500.
This money was shared equally between the him and Timyati.
The theft was discovered when a deputy project manager with Yongnam, Mr Jason Siau, noticed the loss and confronted Timyati.
Timyati admitted to the crime and identified Chia as his accomplice.
Timyati was charged with theft as a servant, and was sentenced to eight weeks' jail in March last year.
On 14 Jul, Chia was found guilty of dishonestly receiving stolen property and sentenced to four weeks' jail, according to court papers obtained by The New Paper.
He could have been jailed up to three years and fined.
Chia, who is married with three children aged 10, 14 and 16, said in mitigation through his lawyers that this was his first such offence.
In 2002, he had been jailed for two weeks and fined $9,000 for being the owner/occupier of a common gaming house.
Chia claimed in court that he had been approached by Timyati to sell the steel beams. He was 'merely the follower'.
He added that he was enticed by the prospect of earning easy money.
Chia has since compensated Yongnam by paying the $2,500, although he got only half of that as his share of the loot.
In sentencing him, district judge Jill Tan said that Chia's restitution of the $2,500 (none of which was contributed by Timyati) was a strong mitigating point.
She said: 'While I gave weight to his lack of similar previous convictions, I noted that he had gotten into trouble with the law previously and served time in prison. Thus, he should have known better than to commit this offence.'
Also, said the judge, the punishment must carry with it a measure of general deterrence to show others in the industry that such acts will not be taken lightly.
It was therefore necessary to impose a jail term.
Deputy public prosecutor Nicholas Khoo, in calling for a stiff sentence, said there were 1,291 reports of theft of metal in 2007, with a value in excess of $6 million. This was up from $4 million in 2006.
Chia has appealed against the sentence and is now on bail.
The Electric New Paper, Singapore - The Electric New Paper News