The sound of the electric grinder filled his ears as he cut a 20cm by 20cm hole in the safe sitting in the room he had broken into.
Ngo Quang Phuoc, 35, was well prepared. He had experience cutting metal during his previous job as a construction worker.
Anticipating he might need to cut metals during the break-in, he had brought the grinder, a pair of safety goggles and a helmet, while his partner Nguyen Van Nhat, 23, stood watch outside the building.
Almost two hours later, he hit pay dirt.
Bundles of cash were inside the safe.
Ngo was shocked. He called Nguyen and told him the good news. Nguyen told him to take as much money as he could, which he did, bundling them into the bag he had taken along.
As he did that, Ngo noticed another compartment in the safe. Using the grinder, he cut into the compartment and found even more money.
Once again he informed his partner, who told him to grab as much as he could.
When Ngo left the room, he was carrying four full bags of cash. He found the three other bags in the room.
The loot: A cool $500,000.
Fast forward to yesterday.
Ngo and Nguyen faced the judge in court.
Both pleaded guilty to housebreaking by night to commit theft at the office of fruit wholesaler Loh Ee Seng Trading Company at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre in the early hours of Jan 5 this year.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Sivabalan Thanabal, asked District Judge Samuel Chua, to jail them for five years each.
He stressed they had "meticulously hatched" the plan to carry out the crime and the amount they stole was high.
Ngo's lawyer, Mr Rajan Supramaniam from Hilborne Law, asked for a "reasonable sentence", saying Ngo was remorseful and the crime was "out of character" for him.
Nguyen, who was not represented by a lawyer, apologised for his offence.
He said he is the sole breadwinner in his family and has to support his ageing parents back home.
Judge Chua said a "strong deterrent sentence" was needed in this case to deter others from committing a similar crime. He sentenced Ngo and Nguyen to four-and-a-half years' jail each.
They could have been jailed for between two and 14 years each.
This was what the court heard earlier.
The two Vietnamese friends arrived in Singapore for a holiday on Jan 1 and went to the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino to gamble the next day.
After losing a "significant amount" of money, Nguyen and Ngo found out on Jan 4 that they did not have enough money to buy plane tickets home.
In need of money, Nguyen, who used to work as a packer for fruit wholesaler Loh Ee Seng Trading Company, recalled that his former employer kept cash in his office.
They decided to burgle the place and formed a plan. At around 10am on Jan 4, the pair left their room in Hotel 81 Orchid at Geylang Lorong 8, hopped into a taxi and went to a Still Road hardware store to buy the tools to carry out their crime.
They spent $316.05 on the tools, including a Bosch grinder, a crowbar, screwdrivers, an extension plug and even a small broom and dustpan. (See list above.)
After that, they went back to their hotel.
They made their way to the wholesale centre at around 8.30pm and waited until midnight to carry out their plan.
At around 12.40am on Jan 5, Ngo discovered he could break into the company, which was at Block 25 of the centre, through the roof. He also noticed he could climb up by using some cardboard boxes that were stacked nearby.
Nguyen acted as a lookout.
When he reached the roof, Ngoused a screwdriver to remove a ventilation fan so he could create an opening to enter the premises.
Once inside, he went to the office on the second storey and entered a room after forcing open a closed door with a screwdriver. That was where he spotted the large metal safe.
DPP Sivabalan said Ngo managed to cut the safe open after almost two hours.
He also used a screwdriver and hacked the safe wall before cutting another hole on an inner metal piece.
After stuffing the money into the bags, Ngo climbed out to meet Nguyen and they made their way towards West Coast Highway.
Along the way, Ngo threw the tools into a nearby rubbish bin.
They then took a taxi to MBS before taking another cab to their hotel.
THE SPENDING SPREE
The men divided their loot when they reached their room.
They then went out to have dinner and used some of the stolen money to buy a mobile phone each. They also bought their plane tickets for their trip home.
Because they had a lot of money, they left their hotel at around 5.15am on the same day and checked into two separate rooms at MBS.
They then decided to go shopping.
They splashed the cash, buying $11,838 worth of luxury items, including a Gucci sling bag, Armani Exchange jeans and Louis Vuitton belts.
The burglary was discovered at 7am, when Mr Loh Yong Kiat, 35, who is a co-owner of the company, arrived for work. He called the police.
According to an earlier report, officers from the Clementi Division acted on a lead from a taxi driver, who recalled picking up the two Vietnamese men at West Coast Highway earlier that day.
Ngo and Nguyen were arrested at MBS at around 10.30am the same day.
Cash amounting to $79,813 was found hidden in a false ceiling of Ngo's hotel room, while another $353,240 was found hidden in different parts of Nguyen's room.
MBS also refunded the money that the men used to book their rooms.
DPP Sivabalan said $464,467.04 was recovered.
- See more at: http://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore-news/vietnamese-duo-jailed-500k-burglary#sthash.by3QXL9x.dpuf