Man steals, then displays $12k worth of bonsai

Man steals, then displays $12k worth of bonsai
FANATICAL: Teo Tiong Guan loved bonsai so much that he stole nine within a month.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

He loved bonsai, but when he started stealing them, his love became an obsession.

In one month, Teo Tiong Guan stole nine bonsai worth $12,400 from a community centre, a residents' corner and outside a home.

He even proudly displayed his stolen plants at home.

Yesterday, Teo, 51, who has a history of theft and cheating offences dating back to 1981, was jailed a year.

On May 14 last year, Teo, then unemployed, walked past Yuhua Community Centre and noticed several bonsai at the centre's garden, court papers said.

Captivated, he returned three days later at 3.25pm, reached over the garden's brick wall and grabbed two pots of bonsai, each worth $2,000.

He removed the plants from the pots, placed them in plastic bags and returned the pots to the garden.

He took the plants back to his flat and planted them in his own pots.

On May 19, he stole two more bonsai worth $3,500 from the community centre's garden.

Teo also stole a $300 bonsai from the corridor outside a Jurong East Housing Board flat that day.


Later that night, he walked past a residents' corner garden at Jurong East Street 21 and was tempted by bonsai in a metal cage.

Though the cage was secured with a padlock, Teo was not deterred. He went home and returned with a metal-cutting tool at about 2am.

He sliced the padlock and took two adenium plants, which are from the bonsai family, court papers said.

He completed his series of heists by stealing two more bonsai from the Yuhua Community Centre garden on June 15.

By then, a senior constituency manager at the centre had reported the missing plants to the police, who eventually traced the thefts to Teo.

They arrested him at his flat in July, where they also found the stolen plants.

Yesterday, Teo pleaded guilty to two counts of house-trespass in order to commit theft, with three other charges taken into consideration.

The judge, however, allowed Teo to defer his sentence till April 1 to settle his work commitments.

He declined comment when approached by The New Paper.

For each charge of house-trespass to commit theft, Teo could have been jailed up to seven years.

This article was first published on February 25, 2016.
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