Webmaster of 2 vice sites jailed 18 weeks

Ex-hawker stall assistant raked in $135,000 a year before his arrest

Dissatisfied with his income, a former hawker stall assistant decided to earn more money - by becoming an online pimp.

That was how Chen Guoguang came to be the webmaster of two popular sites advertising the sexual services of Chinese women.

At its height last November, his first website featured the profiles of more than 100 women and, in a year, he had raked in nearly $135,000.

Chen, 30, was arrested in a police raid on his York Hill flat in March. He was charged with living off the earnings of nine prostitutes and sentenced yesterday to 18 weeks in jail.

Enticed by what he thought was an "easy business", Chen started the first website, Yuan Zai Shi Cheng, in March last year. To procure clients, he poached prostitutes from other websites by obtaining their contact details.

As time went by, Chen's website became popular, and he raised the price of advertising from a $10 commission per customer to a flat monthly rate of $400. Business was so good that he hired two assistants to help him procure business and collect payments.

In February this year, Chen decided the first website was too high-profile and set up a second one to stay off the police radar. He transferred some of the women's profiles over slowly so as not to arouse suspicion that the sites were owned by the same person. Before his arrest, he was looking to expand his services.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Delicia Tan said the accused had "clearly benefited from this lucrative business, and it does not appear he would have stopped if he had not been arrested".

In mitigation, Chen said he was from a low-income family and it was his first offence.

District Judge Mathew Joseph called Chen's operation "sophisticated", "brazen" and a "pernicious use of the Internet and social media".

He asked the accused where he learnt his considerable Web skills. Chen answered that he had picked them up playing computer games when he was young.

The judge said he found this "early IT creativity and proficiency" on Chen's part "remarkable", but using it against the law was a "regrettable and pitiful display of a lack of wisdom".

He told Chen: "I urge you to put this behind you after your release from prison, and to find a job to put your IT skills to good use."

For each charge of living off the earnings of a prostitute, Chen could have been jailed for up to five years and he was also liable to a fine of up to $10,000.

oliviaho@sph.com.sg