SINGAPORE - A former vice operator who lived on the earnings of prostitutes, and who procured local women for the flesh trade was jailed for 29 months and fined $100,000 on Wednesday (Oct 4).
Over three years, Billy Thien Chin Wei and his partner, Andrew Cai Can Yao, both 34, raked in more than $168,000 in earnings.
Thien, who faced 39 charges, admitted on Sept 14 to 12 charges - six each of living on prostitution earnings and of procuring women for the purpose of prostitution within Singapore.
The case against Cai is in the pre-trial conference stage.
A district court heard that some time in 2009, Cai set up a social escort agency called Singapore Premium Escort Services, which advertised the services of prostitutes online.
Three years later, he met Thien, his secondary school friend. They discussed starting a new business together and decided to focus on the social escort business as Cai had prior experience from running escort services. They agreed to split the profits on a 50-50 basis.
Apart from premiumescort.com.sg, they created two other websites to advertise the services of the prostitutes online.
They also advertised on the websites Sammyboyforum and EZ141 to expand their client base.
The prostitutes were also recruited through online advertisements. Prospective prostitutes were informed that their work required them to offer sexual services. They were told to charge hourly fees of $300 to $600.
The duo agreed to take a commission of either 25 or 30 per cent from these hourly fees for each client they secured for the escort.
The monthly earnings of the social escort business ranged from $10,000 to $14,000.
The offences were discovered when police raided Hotel Boss in Jalan Sultan on May 18, 2016 and arrested two escorts for offences under the Women's Charter.
Police found $16,100 at Thien's home when he was arrested the next day.
In his mitigation plea, Thien's lawyer Richard Lim said it was the co-accused who had taught his client how to run the business, from recruiting the social escorts and interviewing them, to posting the advertisements.
He said Thien thought it was just an "ordinary legitimate business'' which many were doing.
"The accused is ashamed and deeply regrets what he had done. This entire episode has also been a source of great distress to his family,'' he said.
Thien paid half of the $100,000 fine and will pay the balance on Nov 6. He could have been jailed for up to five years and fined up to $10,000 for each charge.