A wannabe stolen baby formula tycoon has been sentenced to two years’ jail – but won’t actually spend a day behind bars unless she plays up.
Mother-of-three Tram Huynh Bao Phan, 42, was busted at the centre of a disturbingly simple milk powder racket last year – and the reason why she got involved has been revealed. Phan was financially struggling when she ditched her life as a Vietnamese patisserie operator for an apparently more profitable, but highly illegal, enterprise.
She on-sold tins of baby formula stolen from Coles by a criminal syndicate from her humble Chapel St, Bankstown store, ‘MoMs and KiDs’.
Many of those tins were then exported to China, where voracious demand has fuelled a booming underground market for the Australian product – often leaving Australian parents struggling to find enough formula to feed their babies.
The buyers – known as ‘daigou’ in Chinese, or ‘professional shoppers’ can make more than $100,000 a year selling tins three times the retail price in Australia in China.
The stolen tins were proudly displayed in her shop window and walked in the front door by thieves carrying bulging reusable shopping bags, a court document said.
Tram Huynh Bao Phan (above) sobbed when she was released on police bail following her arrest last May. She is still free following a recent court decision
Phan was suffering ‘financial difficulties’ when she became involved in the criminal syndicate, on-selling stolen Coles tins at her store, court documents said
Late last year Phan pleaded guilty to five counts of recklessly dealing in the proceeds of crime and a charge of having goods suspected of being stolen on her premises.
Court records seen by Daily Mail Australia on Friday revealed that Phan was recently sentenced to a two year jail sentence.
However, the woman described as a ‘key player’ in the milk powder racket is serving the sentence by way of an intensive corrections order.
That essentially means she will have to enroll in rehabilitation programs and not offend further.
How milk powder fiend was busted
Court documents said a team of surveillance operatives had kept a close eye on the entrance to Phan’s south-west Sydney store through April and May 2020.
The mother of three was financially struggling when she became involved in the plot
On at least four occasions, officers captured Phan’s alleged accomplices trundling around Bankstown with shopping bags filled with stolen tins.
Surveillance cameras captured them dropping the tins off at Phan’s small store where she would pay them between $100 and $150 per load, the documents said.
As Daily Mail Australia previously reported, the tins found themselves in pride of place in her shop window.
But police were watching the hardly subtle operation for weeks, and on May 26, raided both her shop and home in Chester Hill.
Detectives found 291 tins of baby formula at her property as well as $15,850 in suspected proceeds of crime.
Phan proudly displayed tins of baby formula in the window of her ‘MoMs and KiDs’ store on Chapel Rd, Bankstown
Above is some of the more than 200 tins of baby formula tins that detectives located at Phan’s Chester Hill property last May
Above is one of the Coles supermarkets which a thief involved in the syndicate allegedly stole from
Phan was arrested and ‘made full admissions to her involvement in this syndicate’ in an interview, the police fact sheet said.
‘She was aware the products she was dealing with were stolen but continued to participate in this syndicate as she was having ‘financial difficulties’,’ said the fact sheet.
She was described as a ‘key player’ in the operation in the police document.
Phan was briefly held in police custody upon her arrest last May and burst into tears outside the Sydney Police Centre.
Phan pleaded guilty to her charges after a series of ‘receive property theft’ charges were withdrawn by prosecutors.
The police investigation into Phan’s store is believed to have come about after a tip off from suspicious local business owners.
Her shop has long since closed down.
Before the Covid pandemic, there were about 150,000 daigous operating in Australia.
There were also about 1,000 stores – some of the team stock stolen formula and other Australian and New Zealand products – across the country.
However, many have since closed due to the closed borders.
NSW Police were reportedly tipped off to the syndicate by local business-people, who were suspicious of former Chapel Rd cake shop owner turned baby formula businesswoman
Phan was arrested in broad daylight by NSW Police officers in May last year after a months-long surveillance operation