Man gets 40 months' jail for swapping S$318,000 'big diamond ring' from Tiffany & Co with replica

Basically the plot of Ocean's 8, with real world consequences.

Ilyda Chua | January 20, 2024, 11:31 AM



A man who took part in a scheme to swap a S$318,000 diamond ring with a replica at a Marina Bay Sands store was sentenced to 40 months' jail on Jan. 19.

Wu Youquan, a  44-year-old Chinese national, had used sleight of hand in an attempt to steal the ring from jewellery store Tiffany & Co.

But he was caught when a staff member realised the texture of the price tag felt different from the original.

He pleaded guilty to a theft charge, with another charge of attempted cheating taken into consideration for sentencing, CNA reported.

Fast cash

In October 2023, a fellow Chinese national, Chen Hanbo, reached out to Wu via WeChat and asked if he was interested in "fast cash jobs".

Wu replied in the affirmative. Chen told him that it was a high-risk endeavour that would involve swapping a diamond ring with a replica at Tiffany & Co.

He also reassured the former that he would not be shortchanged, the court heard.

On Chen's dollar, the pair flew to Singapore and went to the Marina Bay Sands casino. Wu subsequently visited the Tiffany & Co store alone to search for his prospective target.

The pair returned to China on Nov. 3.

A big diamond ring

Less than a week later, Chen instructed Wu to return to Singapore alone.

Wu was told to go to the store, look for the biggest diamond ring there, and take a photo of the price tag.

At the store, Wu lied to the staff that he was from Taiwan and in search of a "big diamond ring" to gift his wife.

After getting permission from the staff, Wu took a photo of a 3.18-carat ring and its S$318,000 price tag, and sent the photo to Chen.

He then told the staff member that he would return in the next few days to purchase the ring.

The following day, Wu returned to China. Chen sent over a replica ring via post, to which Wu commented that the "string" — presumably the one connected to the price tag — was a tad long.

Chen replied that no one would notice this.

The third trip

On Nov. 20, Wu returned to Singapore alone, once again on Chen's dollar.

When he visited the Tiffany & Co, he was attended to by a different staff member.

He told her that he was looking for a diamond ring he had previously seen there, and she showed him a selection of different rings on a tray.

With the replica ring in his pocket, Wu picked up the genuine ring and distracted her by saying he wanted to look at a different ring.

As she opened a nearby drawer, Wu used sleight of hand to swap the replica and the genuine rings, placing the replica on the tray while putting the genuine one in his pocket.

The real diamond ring, valued at S$318,000. Image from Singapore Police Force.

The replica ring. Image from Singapore Police Force.

At first, the staff member did not notice the swap. But when Wu tried to leave the store, saying he had changed his mind, she noticed that the texture of the price tag felt different.

She informed Wu that the ring did not belong to the store. Wu did not reply, and another employee conducted a check on him.

Finally, Wu took out the genuine ring and asked for their forgiveness.

He was subsequently arrested.

Stole ring for fast cash

In sentencing, the deputy public prosecutor said that Wu stole the ring for his personal financial gain to earn some fast cash, and that his crimes were "highly premeditated", CNA reported.

She noted that Wu had no criminal history in Singapore, cooperated with investigations, and pleaded guilty early.

Wu, who was unrepresented, pleaded for leniency. He asked the court to consider that he did not actually remove the genuine ring from the shop.

He also shared that his daughter was paralysed from an accident, "giving him a lot of stress".

"Hence, I made a mistake by committing this offence,” he told the court in Mandarin.

For theft in dwelling, Wu could have been jailed for up to seven years and fined.

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Top image from Singapore Police Force and Tiffany & Co