SINGAPORE: A woman took in a 16-year-old girl who ran away from a home, but listed her sexual services for money online and accompanied her to hotels for the illicit deeds.
When she discovered that the police were onto her, the perpetrator instructed another woman living under her roof to destroy all evidence, preventing the authorities from uncovering the scale of her operations.
The 34-year-old Singaporean, who was not named in court documents, was sentenced to three years' jail on Monday (Jan 10).
She pleaded guilty to five charges, including aiding multiple unknown men to obtain the sexual services of a minor, instigating a person to destroy evidence and failing to wear a mask while providing sexual services to a man at a staircase landing during the COVID-19 "circuit breaker".
Another six charges were considered in sentencing.
The court heard that the offender got to know the minor in August 2018 through her god-daughter. The minor, who was then 16, had ran away from a home the previous month and began staying with the offender and other women at a flat in Chai Chee.
The occupants of the flat called the offender "mama", because she looked after them and bought food and necessities for them.
The offender was a sex worker and used her account on Locanto to advertise her services and look for customers. Within months of befriending the minor, the woman began advertising the girl's sexual services online.
Between December 2018 and April 2019, she posted ads for the girl's services, placing a photo of the girl and lying that she was 21 even though she knew she was only 16.
When interested men contacted the offender, she sent them photos of the girl and arranged for the meetups. She also accompanied the girl to meet her male customers at hotels or at the Chai Chee flat and waited for her to complete her services.
The minor charged S$100 for 30 minutes, S$200 for one hour and S$500 for two hours of sexual services that included intercourse. On at least one occasion, the offender slapped the girl after a disagreement over the sexual services.
On average, the girl provided such services to five or six male customers a day, earning up to S$700 a day over about five months.
She handed over all her earnings to the offender, and received an allowance instead. The offender used the money to buy food for the women in her household and pay the bills.
CAUGHT WIND THAT POLICE WERE ONTO HER AND DESTROYED EVIDENCE
In May 2019, the offender reported for a urine test with a Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officer and was told that she would soon be interviewed over a prostitution case involving the minor.
Knowing that her phone contained incriminating electronic records, the woman managed to contact one of the women living in her flat and instructed her to uninstall certain applications and to delete messages and browsing history.
The offender also broke COVID-19 regulations in the course of her sex work. In April 2020, when a circuit breaker prohibiting non-essential activities was in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, she met a man at a staircase landing for sexual services.
Tan Hong Sen, 30, came across her advertisement on Locanto and contacted her, arranging to meet her at a Housing Board block where she was staying.
She met him at about 9.10pm on Apr 29, 2020 and performed oral sex on him at the staircase landing for S$180. Tan tried to have sexual intercourse with her but was unable to do so, so the offender asked him to pay her another S$50 for a time extension and return in about an hour.
Tan paid the extra money and returned to the block at about 10.20pm. The offender met him at another staircase landing without wearing a mask and performed a sex act on him again.
However, the second attempt at intercourse was again unsuccessful. This amounted to a charge of behaving in an indecent manner in a public place.
WOMAN CALLED THE POLICE OVER THE STRANGE MAN
Meanwhile, a woman had noticed Tan in the area and called the police, saying that there was a man "not wearing mask keep on hiding here", adding that she did not know what she was doing.
The offender heard noises and told Tan to leave, but he was stopped by the police when they arrived. The woman managed to return home and avoided the officers, but her crimes were uncovered eventually.
The offender pleaded guilty from her place in remand and cried at some points.
The prosecutor asked for a total sentence of at least 31 months' jail, noting that the woman handled the entire operation from start to end. She knew the minor's age, took all her earnings, and the minor was a virgin before being roped into the operation, said the prosecutor.
There was also an abuse of trust as the offender had a quasi mother-daughter relationship with the minor, who trusted her and asked her for an allowance.
"Though we are unable to ascertain the total amount of profits and total number of customers, based on the average number per day of five to six and the entire duration of close to five months, the number of customers would be substantial," said the prosecutor.
Because the woman had the evidence in her phone destroyed, the police were unable to ascertain the identities of the customers nor determine the extent and scale of the operation, she added.
On the staircase offences, the prosecutor said the offender had breached regulations twice during the circuit breaker period to provide sexual services in a public place while not wearing a mask.
In mitigation, the woman said she regretted her actions and asked for leniency. "My mother and children require me outside," she said.
The judge said there were many aggravating factors in the case, with the offender clearly the mastermind.
Instead of protecting the minor, she assaulted her, and there was a degree of coercion involved, said the judge.
"In other words, she forced the minor into doing what she did at some times," she said.
The operation can be assumed to be "large and lucrative", and the offender was "very well-prepared" in destroying evidence, knowing exactly how to delete her phone and online records.
For abetting a man to obtain the sexual services of a minor, the woman could have been jailed for up to seven years, fined, or both.