Minimart owner Zhang Bobo was jailed six months on Wednesday (Mar 30) for cheating Giant supermarket of S$4,282 from September to November last year.
The 27-year-old had used his store’s label printer to print barcode stickers for an item worth S$1.25. He then visited supermarkets and affixed the stickers onto more expensive items such as milk powder, before buying them using the self-checkout system.
Zhang, facing financial difficulties, had struck upon a plan to re-sell milk powder obtained from supermarkets. He observed self-checkout counters at various supermarkets before carrying out the offences, the court heard Wednesday.
In one instance in November last year, Zhang got away with paying just S$10 for five items, including three tins of milk powder, worth S$629.70.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Sanjiv Vaswani told the court Zhang “ought to have known better”. Zhang went on a cheating “spree” and abused the self-checkout system to get away with it, he added.
The self-checkout system exists for the sake of convenience, “not to be abused”, the DPP said, urging the court to send a strong signal that such abuse should not be tolerated.
Though Zhang made restitution in cash and by returning non-perishable items to the supermarkets, “this was done at a late stage”, said the DPP.
Zhang’s lawyer Michael Han conceded that since Zhang was caught red-handed, his mitigation “can only be based on compassion”.
He noted that Zhang committed 13 offences in quick succession, within 1.5 months, but said in mitigation that Zhang, father to a two-year-old daughter, is the sole breadwinner of the family and the sole caregiver to his wife, who has been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.
He is in the process of trying to sell the minimart, as his wife and elderly mother are in no condition to run it, Mr Han said.
In sentencing Zhang to six months’ jail, District Judge Low Wee Ping asked him: “I wonder how you would feel if someone stole from your minimart in the same manner.”
For cheating, Zhang could have been jailed up to 10 years and fined.