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DH jailed 7 months & her employer, 3 years, for roles in online sex ring

12 October 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The online sex operation was based in a flat in Tavistock 2 in Mid-Levels

A female helper who admitted to helping her employer run a multi-million-dollar online sex service business for over nine years, is expected to be released from jail tomorrow, Tuesday, as she had been in custody longer than her seven-month jail sentence.

Only the processing of her release papers kept Jo-An Palpal-latoc, 45, from being freed immediately after being sentenced by Judge Amanda Woodcock in District Court this afternoon, Oct 12.  The Filipina had to detained temporarily after being out on bail for several months.

Her employer, 68-year-old Wong Pui-ting who operated the high-end sex booking syndicate from her luxury flat in Tavistock 2 on Tregunter Path, Mid-Levels, was immediately taken into custody to begin a three-year jail sentence.

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Both defendants pleaded guilty on Oct 5 to one count of conspiring to live on the earnings of prostitution, and to three counts of money laundering for handling the proceeds from the pimping offense.

After the sentencing, Consulate officers who attended the hearing were jubilant over Palpalatoc’s impending release. The Filipina was taken into custody after her arrest, and was detained more than a month longer than her 7-month sentence.

“From the start, we have supported her because she is a good person and was only a victim of her employer,” said Social Welfare attaché Elizabeth Dy.

Pindutin para sa detalye

The court heard that Palpal-latoc earned a total of $203,000 from the sex ring over a nine-year period, while Wong raked in $2.5 million every year.

Wong, a former prostitute, set up six online sex booking services including hongkongescort.com, hongkongescort.co, escorthongkong.com and  hongkongescortservices.com, and left Palpal-latoc and another maid to make the bookings.

From Jan. 1, 2009 to May 15, 2018, shortly before the operation was uncovered, three bank accounts held in the name of Firstmount Investments Ltd, where Wong was the sole shareholder and director, showed earnings totaling $32.3 million.

Palpal-latoc (with backpack) took bookings from clients of the high-end sex ring 

Palpal-latoc said she and another Filipina helper, Jeanette Gallego, 47, were ordered by Wong to take phone calls, book clients and contact suppliers of prostitutes from May 2009, a month after she was hired.

Police busted the operation during a raid on May 18, 2018 and arrested Wong and the two maids.

In mitigation, Wong’s lawyer, Charlotte Draycott SC, told the court her client had employed Palpal-latoc for more than nine years, and had given the Filipina’s family her long service award and continued to pay her salary until her work contract ended.

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Woodcock said Palpal-latoc’s role in the sex service business run by Wong was minor, like that of her co-helper Jeanette Gallego, who was jailed 10 months after admitting a charge of conspiring to live on the earnings of prostitutes.

The judge said she had considered Palpal-latoc’s guilty plea to the four charges, and her role in convincing her employer to plead guilty to bring the case to an end. Wong, who had a private counsel, earlier refused to admit the charges against her.

Woodcock said she also took into account letters from the Consulate about Palpal-latoc being a victim of her employer. The maid reportedly agreed to help in the illicit operation due to financial stress as the sole breadwinner of her two children and her elderly parents.

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The Consulate said in its letter that Palpal-latoc had to live for 20 months in a crowded shelter run by the PCG during the pandemic, with no income for 285 days and relying only on friends’ contributions for her personal needs while the case dragged on.

Woodcock sentenced the maid to seven months in jail for each of the four charges, all sentences to run concurrently. The judge gave discounts for her help in getting Wong to plead guilty, and a further discount for her long wait for the trial.

For Wong, the judge said she had considered the defendant’s guilty plea which she communicated three weeks before the first day of trial, her age and her health condition. She meted Wong a 3-year jail term on each of the charges, all sentences to run concurrently.

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A charge of money laundering to which Wong pleaded not guilty was dropped as the prosecutor said American Express did not cooperate in supplying evidence relating to some $24 million proceeds from the sex ring that were kept in an Amex bank in Macau.

Judge Woodcock set the hearing of an application for a confiscation order for all proceeds from the illicit operation to Dec. 30.

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