Recalcitrant offender, 73, gets five years' jail for bike thefts

A 73-year-old man with more than half a century of criminal history was convicted of his latest offences of bicycle theft and given five years' jail on Friday (Nov 24).

Yang Cheap Lai, who started his life of crime when he was 20, admitted to three counts of stealing bicycles in December last year, and on Feb 23 and 28.

Three other charges, including attempted theft and dishonest misappropriation of a Pioneer Generation card, were taken into consideration.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Huang Jiahui said that Yang, who is stateless, was looking for bicycles to steal along the Siglap Park Connector on Feb 23, when he saw a Rockrider bicycle, which costs $429.

Its owner, Mr Timothy Joseph Butor Viado, had parked the bicycle there in the morning and secured it to the railings with a bicycle lock.

After cutting the lock, Yang rode the black bicycle with blue and silver markings to a flea market in Sungei Road where he sold it for $90.

Five days later, Yang stole another bicycle - this one was worth $100 - also at the same park connector. He sold it in Sungei Road for $80.

In the December case, Yang was riding his trishaw along Lorong 14 Geylang when he spotted a silver and black electric bicycle with its keys still in the ignition.

He parked his trishaw nearby and then rode the e-bicycle back to his home in MacPherson Lane. That evening, he sold the e-bicycle to his neighbour for $200 but never received the money.

Yang has been in and out of jail since 1964. He has also been sentenced to preventive detention five times for cheating, housebreaking, trespass and theft of motor vehicles. The last time was in 2008, when he was given seven years' preventive detention, which has no remission for good behaviour.

Yang's pro bono lawyer Melvin Loh said in mitigation that Yang used the money from selling the bicycles to pay for medicine for his long-time girlfriend, who had cataracts, and to provide for his two mentally retarded godsons.

Yang could have been jailed for up to three years and/or fined for each theft charge.