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Employer and helper linked to online sex ring charged with laundering $15M

22 May 2019

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The online sex ring was allegedly run from a luxury flat on Tregunter Path, Mid Levels 
By Vir B. Lumicao

An elderly local Chinese woman, said to be the mastermind of an online prostitution ring based in her luxury Mid-Levels flat, has been charged along with her Filipina domestic helper of laundering nearly $15 million allegedly earned from the illicit business.

Heidi Wong Pui-ting, 69, and her maid Jo-an Palpal-latoc, 41, appeared before Eastern Court Magistrate Veronica Heung on May 22 to face a charge of dealing with proceeds from an indictable offence, commonly known as money laundering.
No plea was taken from either defendant.

Heung adjourned the case until Jun 11, and approved bail of $1,500 for each defendant.

Wong and Palpal-latoc also face a charge in the District Court of conspiring to live on the earnings of prostitutes, along with another Filipina maid, Jeanette Gallego, 47.
The two helpers were allegedly caught operating from Wong's flat several dating websites offering sex for a fee, and took  orders from prospective foreign clients.

In the new case, the prosecution charged that between Jan 1, 2010 and May 15, 2018, the two defendants kept $14.85 million in an account in Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp Ltd in the name of Wong.
Prosecutors suspect that money deposited into that account came from the operation of the online prostitution ring that allegedly offered women to foreign clients for as high as US$7,000 per hour.
               
Under Section 25A of Hong Kong’s Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance, it is an offense for a person to deal with property that he knows, or has reasonable grounds to believe, to be proceeds of a crime.
The charge did not give details of Palpal-latoc’s role in the money laundering, but in an earlier court hearing, it was disclosed that the Filipina, who had been in Wong's employ for about nine years, had been depositing money paid by clients into the bank account.

Prosecutors in the case have said that the two cases will be consolidated in the District Court by Jul 4 before a trial is scheduled.
Wong, her 72-year-old sister, a male relative and the two Filipinas were arrested in a police raid on May 17 last year in the employer’s flat on the 43rd floor of Tavistock II residential block on Tregunter Path, Mid-Levels.

Wong had been out on bail along with her sister and the male relative since their arrest, while Palpal-latoc and Gallego were detained for about seven months before they were granted bail on Jan 7.

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