SINGAPORE: In a bid to earn some fast cash, Wu Youquan tried to swap a diamond ring worth S$318,000 (US$237,000) with a replica ring at a Tiffany & Co luxury jewellery store at Marina Bay Sands last year.
Wu did not manage to make it out of the store before an employee discovered what he had done.
On Friday (Jan 19), the 44-year-old Chinese national was sentenced to 40 months’ jail after pleading guilty to a theft charge. Another charge of attempted cheating was taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that a fellow Chinese national, Chen Hanbo, first reached out to Wu on WeChat in October 2023 and asked if he was interested in “fast cash jobs”.
When Wu said yes, Chen told him the job was a high-risk one that involved swapping a genuine diamond ring at Tiffany & Co with a replica one. Chen did not specify how much Wu would earn but reassured him that he would not be shortchanged.
On Nov 1, the pair flew to Singapore and visited the Marina Bay Sands casino.
Chen, who paid for Wu’s travel expenses, then visited the Tiffany & Co store alone to look at a potential diamond ring for the swap. They returned to China on Nov 3.
Six days later, Wu returned to Singapore alone on Chen’s instructions. Chen told him to go to the store, look for the biggest diamond ring there and take a photograph of its price tag.
Wu went to the store and told a client adviser there that he was from Taiwan and looking for a gift for his wife in the form of a “big diamond ring”.
When the employee showed him some, Wu took a photo of a 3.18-carat ring and its accompanying price tag of S$318,000 after seeking permission to do so. He sent the photo to Chen sometime later.
He told the client adviser that he would be returning within the next few days to buy the genuine ring. She gave him her name card and wrote down her working hours on Nov 11, as well as the particulars of the ring.
Wu returned to China the following day. Subsequently, Chen told him that he would send over a replica ring via post.
When Wu received the replica, he told Chen that the “string” was a bit too long in an apparent reference to the string attached to the price tag. Chen said no one would notice this.
SLEIGHT OF HAND
Wu came back to Singapore by himself on Nov 20, with his travel expenses paid for by Chen once more.
He went to the Tiffany & Co store and asked for the client adviser who had earlier attended to him, but she was not there.
A team manager attended to him instead. When Wu told her that he was looking for a diamond ring he had previously seen at the store, she showed him various rings of different carats on a tray.
He held the replica ring in his pocket before using his other hand to pick up the genuine ring and look at it.
In order to distract the manager, he told her he wanted to look at another ring. While she was opening a nearby drawer, Wu placed the replica back on the tray and pocketed the genuine ring. She did not notice the swap.
Wu then said he wanted to buy another ring so he could find an opportunity to leave the store, before saying he had changed his mind.
The manager realised that the texture of the price tag on the replica felt different. She told Wu that the ring did not belong to Tiffany & Co, but Wu did not respond.
Another employee conducted a check on him and that was when Wu took the genuine ring out of his pocket and asked for their forgiveness. The police were called and he was arrested.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Kelly Ng sought at least 42 months’ imprisonment. She told the court that Wu’s crimes were “highly premeditated” and there was a transnational element, with Wu and Chen targeting Singapore for profitable criminal activities.
Wu also stole the ring for his personal financial gain to earn some fast cash, added the prosecutor.
She acknowledged that Wu had no criminal history in Singapore, cooperated with investigations and pleaded guilty at an early stage.
In mitigation, Wu – who was unrepresented – pleaded for leniency and asked the court to consider the fact that he did not remove the genuine ring from the shop.
He also said his family circumstances, including his daughter being paralysed from an accident, were “giving him a lot of stress”. “Hence, I made a mistake by committing this offence,” he said in Mandarin.
For theft in dwelling, Wu could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.