SINGAPORE - The mastermind of an online vice syndicate was jailed for two years and fined $83,000 on Friday (May 26) for running a stable of 12 sex workers - all Singaporean women. The women were between 21 and 39 years old.
Shop assistant Roderic Chen Hao Ran, now 32, pleaded guilty to five counts of living in part on the earnings of prostitution, three counts of procuring women for vice activities and one count of operating a remote communication device - a mobile phone - to carry out his prostitution business.
Eighteen other charges - most of them vice-related - were taken into consideration during sentencing.
He committed the offences between mid-2014 and July, last year.
His is the first concluded court case involving a new law in which an offender is convicted of operating a remote communication device to carry out a vice-related business.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Gail Wong told District Judge May Mesenas that the new law was rolled out on July 1, last year.
DPP Wong added: "(It) is intended to target vice syndicates operating online, which then arrange sexual services at hotels and residences instead of traditional brothels."
Chen entered the business after meeting a man known only as Adam while behind bars. Chen had been convicted in court in 2003 and 2011 for offences including assisting in an unlicensed moneylending business.
The court heard Adam then taught him how to operate a social escort business.
After his release, Chen set up one such company but court papers did not mention when this took place.
He created a website and recruited women to perform paid sexual services. After recruiting the women, he took photographs of them in lingerie and uploaded the photos onto the site.
DPP Wong said in 2015, he met a man known as Lee Soon Ann, 37, and they agreed to work together and share commissions.
That year, a 32-year-old woman came across an Internet advertisement recruiting social escorts and sent a message to a mobile phone number attached to it.
Chen responded and told her that the job included her providing sexual services to customers.
She serviced one in 2015 before deciding not to work anymore that year.
But she contacted Chen last year and requested to work with him again.
DPP Wong said: "He told her he would market her at $900 for a two-hour booking and $550 for a one-hour booking. The victim would get $630 and $380 respectively."
From May to July last year, she provided sexual services to around 16 customers. During this period, she transferred about $3,000 of her earnings from prostitution to Chen.
At least four other women were recruited in a similar manner. They each transferred between $2,000 and $10,800 of their earnings to him.
Based on information received in relation to Chen's vice website, police raided his home on July 27, last year.
On Friday, DPP Wong urged Judge Mesenas to sentence him to 25 months' jail and a fine of $83,000.
She said: "The use of (electronic means) increases the difficulty of detection due to the anonymity of the Internet which also facilitates cross-border criminal activity, and where servers can be hosted overseas, making it more difficult for local law enforcement to trace offenders."
Chen's lawyer, Mr Choo Si Sen, asked for his client to be jailed for 16 months and fined $24,000.
Mr Choo said: "The girls carried out their services willingly. They were not forced or misled into carrying out their illicit transactions."
The case involving Lee is still pending.
For each charge of living in part on the earnings of prostitution, Chen could have been jailed up to five years and fined up to $10,000.