Online pimp used 'social escort' front for illicit business

A 38-year-old online vice ring pimp, who received nearly $2.6 million in revenue and earned a profit of about $1 million over five years, was convicted of various offences yesterday, in one of the largest online vice ring cases here.

Chew Tiong Wei pleaded guilty to 28 charges, with another 73 to be taken into consideration. He will be sentenced on Jan 13.

His vice ring involved at least 22 prostitutes, 11 of whom were below the age of 18 at the time of the offences. The youngest was 15.

He also engaged in commercial sex with the underage females before prostituting them. His reason was that they needed to get used to the "whole feel" of dealing with customers, and he would give pointers and feedback.

A district court heard that Chew set up his vice business in mid-2007, and ran it until he was arrested by anti-vice police in his Golden Landmark office in December last year. He would take out advertisements to recruit female "social escorts" in newspapers. Interested women would contact him, and he would meet them for interviews.

After an applicant agreed to provide sexual services, Chew would arrange for a photo shoot of her while she was scantily clad and in provocative poses. Nude photos would also be taken if she gave her consent.

He would post a profile of the "social escort" on an online forum, with a price he determined based on a discussion with her and his own assessment of her "quality". The charges for the prostitutes' services ranged from $200 to $1,000.

From 2007 to 2008, Chew earned between $20,000 and $30,000 by acting as a middleman, taking a 40 per cent cut of the escorts' earnings.

In January 2010, due to increasing profits, Chew created his own website for his illicit business. He registered his agency, Prestige Talents Management, with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, as a sole proprietorship providing "social escort services". He also set up a customised database system, based on text messages he sent and received for his vice business.

Based on the database's records, Chew received revenue of more than $2.5 million between January 2010 and December last year.

After deducting payments to the escorts and expenses, he earned just over $1 million during the five-year period.

Chew yesterday also admitted to five counts of making obscene films of himself having sex with prostitutes, unbeknownst to them. He also pleaded guilty to evading tax by underdeclaring his profits for assessment years 2012 and 2013.

In April last year, Chew also submitted a Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) cash payout application form for purchasing $15,000 of software. In the form, he declared that he had met the conditions of employing and making Central Provident Fund contributions for at least three local employees, and provided the particulars of his father, mother and wife.

They were never employed by Chew, but he had made CPF contributions into their accounts. Chew later obtained a PIC cash payout of $9,000 and a PIC bonus of $15,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2015, with the headline 'Online pimp used 'social escort' front for illicit business'. Print Edition | Subscribe