SINGAPORE - A 48-year-old hotel chef, who got to know about the online vice trade, started renting apartment units so that he could sublet them to prostitutes, a court heard.
From end 2014 to early this year, Xue Donglai, who worked as a sous chef for Swisshotel Merchant Court, earned about $15,000 in profit from renting rooms out as brothels.
One prostitute, a 33-year-old from China, serviced about 600 customers in one of the rooms between Oct 10 last year and Feb 22.
On Friday (Oct 10), Xue was jailed for three months and fined $23,000.
He pleaded guilty to two charges of living on the earnings of prostitution and one count of running a brothel.
If he is unable to pay the fine, he will have to spend another five weeks in jail.
The court heard that Xue, a Singapore permanent resident from China, who has worked in Singapore for the last 16 years, rented at least five apartment units over the years in order to sublet them to prostitutes.
Three of the units were located at Urban Lofts in Rangoon Road, Ness in Lorong 32 Geylang, and Primedge in Lorong 34 Geylang.
Depending on the size of their rooms, Xue would charge the prostitutes between $100 to $140 a month.
If a prostitute was introduced to him by an agent, Xue would also pay $20 in commission each day to her agent.
Xue got his tenants through advertisements that he got his friend to post on WeChat, a messaging app popular in China.
"Further investigations revealed that Xue refused to rent his rooms to social visit pass holders as he felt that if the police were to arrest them inside the unit, the chances of the police investigating the house owners and tenants were higher compared to special pass holders," said Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Kavita Uthrapathy.
"According to him, he has earned a profit of about $15,000 from renting rooms to prostitutes over the years, after deducting the monthly rental paid to the landlord and utility bills.
"He has since spent the money on drinks, food and repayment of his credit card bills," added the DPP.
On Feb 25, four prostitutes from China, aged 24, 30, 33 and 37, were arrested during an undercover operation.
Xue was arrested the same day at Swisshotel Merchant Court and admitted to subletting rooms for prostitutes to use as brothels.
In mitigation, Xue's lawyer Simon Tan said Xue is a first-time offender, is truly remorseful and had co-operated fully with the authorities.
Xue came to Singapore in 2000 to join Grand Shanghai Restaurant as a cook and joined Swisshotel Merchant Court as a junior sous chef in 2014.
He is the sole breadwinner of his family, and had found it hard to rely solely on his income to support his family's expenses as his daughter was studying in the UK, said Mr Tan.
He wanted to supplement his income by renting out apartments to other Chinese nationals in Singapore and was not directly involved in the prostitution of his tenants.
Xue was sacked from his job after he informed his employer about his charges.
The maximum punishment for living on the earnings of prostitution is five years' jail and a $10,000 fine.
The maximum penalty for being a person in charge of a brothel is a $3,000 fine and three years' jail for a first conviction, and a $10,000 fine and five years' jail, for subsequent convictions.