SINGAPORE — For over a year, a Singaporean man sexually groomed a 13-year-old girl that he met online, convincing her to perform sexual acts in exchange for money.
Nick Chong Seng Cheong, who began committing his offences at the age of 21, was aware of the girl’s age when he asked her to be “friends with benefits”.
Chong, now 24, was sentenced to two years and 10 months jail’ on Monday (12 April) after he pleading guilty three counts of sexual penetrating a minor and one count of possessing obscene films. Another seven charges of a similar nature were taken into consideration for his sentencing.
The victim, who is now aged 16, cannot be named due to a gag order.
'Friends with benefits'
Chong, who works as a project lead at an engineering company, began chatting with the victim in October 2017 after meeting her through an application. Their conversations soon took a sexual turn.
At his request, she would send him photos of her genitals, which he would reciprocate with pictures of his own private parts.
At Chong’s suggestion, the girl agreed to be “friends with benefits” with him, provided that the man paid her whenever they engaged in sexual activities. He was aware that the girl was only 13 at the time.
That same month, the pair met at the handicapped toilet of a mall to have their first sexual encounter. They continued to meet nearly every month from October 2017 to February 2019 and Chong would pay the girl between $30 and $50 for each session, depending on the activity involved.
Before the first instance of sexual intercourse, the girl asked the man to pay her a higher price of $100 as she would be losing her virginity to him, and the man agreed.
Chong knew the girl needed money to buy games, amongst other items. When the girl asked for more money, Chong would claim that he needed to book fancier hotels for their meet-ups as cheaper hotels required the girl to show her identity card, thereby exposing her age. Their sexual encounters took place at hotels such as Hotel Boss, Village Hotel (Bugis) and The Noble Hotel.
The pair would meet on weekdays after the girl ended school. Chong would ask the girl to change out of her school uniform so that she would not raise the suspicion of staff at the various hotels they visited. He also told her to act like his sister when he picked her up from the hotel lobbies.
While having sex, Chong would at times not use a condom and would also use sexual aids on the girl. He also filmed these encounters for repeated viewing later.
At one point, the man sent a video of the girl in a compromising state to an unknown person to discuss the possibility of a threesome; however, this did not materialise.
Chong knew that he had to take precautions and would asked the girl to delete her messages to him.
On 12 March 2019, around a month after their final sexual encounter, the victim lodged a police report stating that she had sexual intercourse with several men. These men are currently under investigation, with Chong being the first of the group to be dealt with, according to the prosecution.
During their investigations, the police found 48 obscene video files on Chong's two mobile phones.
'Considerable measure' of sexual grooming
Deputy Public Prosecutor Emily Koh asked for three years’ jail for Chong, saying that the degree of sexual exploitation was high due to their intrusiveness. Chong had also exploited the victim’s young age and inexperience, as can be seen by how he asked her to send photos of her genitals and told her how to touch him.
Koh also cited Chong's efforts to hide the victim's age and identity as aggravating factors.
Defence lawyers Cory Wong and Josephus Tan from Invictus Law argued that Chong should be jailed no more than two years and six months. They pointed out that he had been relatively young at the time of the offences.
With regard to engaging in sexual activities without using a condom, Wong noted in his mitigation that Chong had been tested negative for sexually transmitted diseases during his mandatory screening for national service, and that the victim was his only sexual partner.
District Judge Janet Wang noted that while Chong had not used force or coerced the victim, there was a “considerable measure” of sexual grooming involved. Chong had used the victim’s need for money to obtain his own sexual gratification, said the judge.
For statutory rape, Chong could have been jailed up to 20 years, as well as fined or caned. For possessing obscene films, he could have been jailed up to six months, fined at least $500 for each film, or both.
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