Fresh out of jail, yet he goes on stealing spree
A SERIAL thief has been jailed for eight years, after brazenly stealing bags and a wallet from churchgoers just days after his release from corrective training for earlier theft offences.
The jobless man, Michael Neo Eng Keong, walked into six churches and stole the unattended valuables, worth almost $10,000 in all.
On each occasion between Jan 3 and 11, Neo made off with a bag or wallet.
He pocketed some of their contents, including cash and other items, after fleeing the scene.
The churches targeted included True Way Presbyterian Church in Stirling Road, Church of Our Saviour in Margaret Drive, and Faith Methodist Church in Commonwealth Drive.
The victims had turned up for events including church services, and even a wedding reception.
Yesterday, Neo, 35, pleaded guilty to three charges of theft and had another three taken into consideration.
About $7,000 of the loot was recovered.
The court heard that between 11.20am and 1.43pm on Jan 4, he entered Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church in Wishart Road and loitered around the ground floor "looking for opportunities".
This was when he noticed that a worship service had just ended and saw a crowd coming down the stairs.
Neo then spotted a female churchgoer placing her Longchamp leather bag on a table near the church's front entrance.
He made off with it when she walked away to get refreshments and speak to a friend.
He left the bag in a public toilet and sold an Apple iPad from the bag at a flea market.
Neo has a long history of theft convictions dating back to 1992.
Most recently, he completed a five-year stint of corrective training and was released on Dec 23 last year - less than two weeks before committing the first of the latest thefts.