SINGAPORE- She stole more than $38,000 worth of jewellery from her adoptive mother in order to give the 66-year-old a monthly allowance of $500.
In sentencing 24-year-old Sarina Chan Jee Chin to 21 months of probation and 130 hours of community service, District Judge Low Wee Ping said: "I don't think you are a criminal to be put in prison, but it was a very foolish way to please your adoptive mother."
Chan, who is from China and adopted when she was four, could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined for theft after pleading guilty.
The prosecution had argued that there was nothing unusual about this case to spare Chan a jail term, but the judge disagreed, saying there were "many special circumstances", including how ample restitution had been made.
When the prosecution highlighted the high value of jewellery stolen, defence counsel Edmund Wong said that Chan had returned $19,185 while $18,860 of the stolen items had been recovered by the police.
"If you add this to the monthly allowance Madam Yeo received over three years, she gained more than she lost," Mr Wong pointed out.
The judge also referred to Chan's good academic results, having graduated from Nanyang Polytechnic with a diploma in visual communications, and her present job as a free-lance media research consultant.
He said: "It would be excessive punishment to destroy all this and give her a criminal record."
It was in late 2010, after her graduation, when her adoptive mother Madam Yeo Ah Moy asked for a monthly allowance.
Unable to find a job, she resorted to stealing $2,255 worth of gold jewellery from a drawer in Madam Yeo's bedroom in March 2011, which she then pawned.
She stole three more times the next year, and then for the final time this January.
Five months later, Madam Yeo discovered her jewellery missing and went to the police.
In the probation report, Madam Yeo's husband said that he did not support a probation sentence for Chan.
But Judge Low said this was because he feared offending his wife.
Chan's lawyer also revealed that despite being estranged from her adoptive family - she is now living alone - his client had expressed the desire to support Madam Yeo in the years ahead.
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