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2 Filipinas in online sex ring case apply for bail

21 May 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

Two Filipina domestic helpers appeared in Eastern Court again today, May 21, to apply for bail after being charged for their alleged roles in an online prostitution ring allegedly ran by their elderly female employer from her luxury flat in Mid-Levels.

The two defendants, Joan E. Palpal-latoc, 40, and Jeanette V. Gallego, 47,  were formally charged in court on May 18 for allegedly operating three dating websites offering sex services that targeted wealthy foreign tourists.

Palpal-latoc and Gallego each faced a charge of “living on the earnings of prostitution of others” for the past nine years from 2009 to 2018.

The two Filipinas were hired by a certain Miss Wong as domestic helpers in 2009, the prosecutor said.

They were arrested on Tuesday, May 15, along with Wong, her 72-year-old sister, and a male person during a raid by police on a flat on the 43rd floor of Tavistock II, a residential tower on Tregunter Path.

The three local Chinese suspects were allowed to post bail while the two maids
were taken into custody and formally charged in court.

Magistrate ordered 2 Filipina suspects to apply for bail
Magistrate Peter Law ordered the two Filipinas to apply for bail, after asking the prosecution why they were not given temporary liberty like the other accused. The prosecutor said it was due to the Filipinas' lack of local ties, the seriousness of their offense and the high risk of flight.

But on the date set for the bail application, the maid's lawyer could not be in court until around 1pm, forcing Law to adjourn the bail hearing to Jun 4. 

The case itself will be heard again on Jul 13.

The prosecution sought an adjournment of eight weeks to allow enough time for a forensic examination of six to eight hard drives of four PCs, several mobile phones, seven telephone main lines, phone recordings, and 17 ledgers containing records of transactions that police seized.

Local newspaper reports said the raiding teams also confiscated $10 million in cash, share certificates and a car.

The reports which quoted a police officer also said Wong controlled the syndicate, taking calls directly from customers who sought sex services.

The website operated by her domain company allegedly displayed pictures of foreign women who worked as prostitutes, and promoted all-day high-quality escort and massage services for $6,000 to $7,000 an hour.

The investigation of Wong and the two others is continuing.

Police started investigating the operation after suspicious websites offering “compensated dating” services in Hong Kong appeared on the internet and targeted foreign tourists.

The sites claimed such services are legal in Hong Kong and that the women, as well as men, are mostly Westerners including Russians and other East Europeans.

Three teams of officers posing as customers contacted the websites and transacted business. When they raided the premises, they found the two Filipinas still at work. They said Papal-latoc arranged the special services while Gallego received commissions of 0.4% per transaction.

The two were returned to police custody pending their bail application. 

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