SINGAPORE: Two men who set up a website for prostitution and lived off the earnings collected from the women for years were sentenced to jail and fined on Thursday (Apr 4).
Ong Ah Huat and Teo Sah Soon, who were both jobless, operated a website called MadamQ which advertised the services of social escorts. They earned S$71,000 in commission from the women over four years.
Ong, 55, who came up with the concept of a social escort business that included sexual services, was sentenced to two years and five months' jail and fined S$20,000.
He roped in the 58-year-old Teo sometime between 2013 and 2014 to set up the Singapore-hosted website and advertise the business.
Teo, who managed the site and updated it with photos of the social escorts, was jailed for 11 months and fined S$30,000.
Ong had told Teo that the social escorts would provide sexual services including sexual intercourse to customers if they wanted it.
Ong recruited the escorts - aged between 23 and 33 - through people he knew, or met them through the MadamQ website.
He called them or met them in person, sometimes accompanied by Teo, to brief them on their job scope. Ong told the women - who were mostly Singaporeans but included one Mongolian and one Kyrgyzstani - that he would take a cut of 40 per cent from customers' payments.
Teo was paid a monthly salary of S$1,500. On top of this, he took a 5 per cent commission while Ong kept the remaining 35 per cent from the escorts.
The business ran for about four years, with Ong obtaining profits of S$71,490. Of this, almost S$9,000 was paid to Teo as his share of the commission.
ESCORTS HAD UP TO 40 CUSTOMERS
Of the girls who worked as escorts, one 29-year-old Singaporean entertained about 35 customers. She would wait for the details of the assignments from Ong, before heading to various hotels in Singapore to complete them, Deputy Public Prosecutor Jordon Li told the court.
This woman gave Ong a total of S$14,000 from her prostitution earnings, which he split with Teo accordingly and spent on daily expenses.
Another escort, a 24-year-old Singaporean, came across the MadamQ website and indicated her interest to sign up. She took the job after speaking to Ong over the phone, and serviced 40 customers, giving Ong S$24,000 from her earnings.
The business came to a halt when one of the escorts was caught. On Aug 2, 2018, officers from the Criminal Investigation Department conducted an operation at Holiday Inn in Orchard based on a tip-off and arrested the 27-year-old Kyrgyzstani.
Investigators traced the trail back to Ong, who was arrested a day later.
NOT ILLEGAL TO SET UP SOCIAL ESCORT AGENCY ONLINE: DEFENCE
Ong pleaded guilty to seven charges under the Women's Charter and two drug-related charges, with another 15 charges taken into consideration.
His accomplice Teo pleaded guilty to five charges under the Women's Charter, with another seven charges taken into consideration.
Teo's defence lawyer Singa Retnam told the court that his client was declared bankrupt from 2000 to 2013 after transferring all shares in a company he owned to his ex-wife as part of divorce proceedings.
The lawyer said that Teo had agreed to set up the website for his old acquaintance Ong as "it was not illegal to set up a social escort agency online".
"There was no mention of sexual services being offered on the website, only social escort services," claimed the lawyer.
He said Teo was truly remorseful and had cooperated fully with authorities in investigations.
For living on the earnings of a prostitute, the men could have been jailed up to five years and fined S$10,000 on each charge.