SINGAPORE - A serial cheat who absconded while on home detention to commit more offences had the audacity to ask the court for a light sentence on Thursday.
Mohamed Helmi Mohamed got an earful from District Judge Soh Tze Bian who said there was no basis to exercise leniency in this case.
The judge added: "You were jailed for four years in 2010 for cheating but did not learn your lesson. Instead you ran off in the fourth month of home detention to commit even more offences."
The 31-year-old was sentenced to five years of corrective training - a tough prison regime of between five and 14 years meant for repeat offenders.
There is no remission for good behaviour. However, prisoners can acquire skills such as cooking and carpentry.
Judge Soh had observed that Mohamed Helmi resorted to crime to "earn a living" as he lacked skills for full-time employment.
"Corrective training will teach you skills to find a job upon your release," said the judge.
Mohamed Helmi had been in jail three times since 2004 mainly for cheating and misappropriating money.
Placed on home detention in May last year, he went to work as a part-time delivery man for a firm renting out water dispensers. Three months later, he pocketed $1,041 of the firm's money and resigned.
Then in May and June this year, he cheated 11 victims of a total of $18,260 in a rental scam.
He had offered them accommodation in a flat in Serangoon North, only to run off with the rental and deposit money.
The court heard that the flat was already rented out and was not even his own.
Police tracked him down and he was arrested in July.
On Thursday, he said that he realised he had done "a great wrong" but was unable to return any of the money.
His parents were in court and were allowed to speak to him briefly. He was in tears when he was escorted to prison by police officers.
For cheating, he could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.