A man who started an online escort service and managed 21 prostitutes, including 20 Singaporean women, was sentenced to 29 months’ jail and fined $100,000 at the State Courts on Thursday (19 April).
Cai Can Yao Andrew, 35, had earlier pleaded guilty to 12 charges of recruiting prostitutes and living off their earnings. He earned over $168,000 from the time he started his business in 2009 up until his arrest in 2016.
Twenty-seven other similar charges under the Women’s Charter were taken into consideration for Cai’s sentencing.
Court documents showed that Cai started a social escort agency called Singapore Premium Escort Services sometime in 2009 and advertised its services online. Three years later he roped in his secondary school friend Billy Thien Chin Wei, 35.
The pair then set up two more websites to advertise the services of the prostitutes under their charge.
The duo split the work, agreeing to share the profits evenly. Cai would recruit the women while Thien secured bookings with customers.
Cai would recruit the women through online advertisements. He would meet prospective prostitutes, get their age and have them rate their own looks on a scale of one to 10.
Cai would then assign an hourly rate that the women could charge, usually between $300 and $600. The two friends would get a 25 per cent to 30 per cent commission for each client they secured for the prostitutes.
If the terms were agreeable to the women, Cai would arrange photoshoots for them – with the pictures taken being used for advertorial purposes. Besides their own websites, the duo also paid for online advertorial space on the EZ141 and Sammyboy Forum websites.
Thien handled the phone line through which clients could make bookings, which occurred on a daily basis. He also updated the prostitutes’ availability on their websites.
Thien also helped to arrange the appointments between clients and prostitutes, and would collect the commission from the women after they completed each job.
The operation came to a halt on the night of 18 May 2016 when police raided Hotel Boss along Jalan Sultan arresting two prostitutes who worked for the duo. This led the police to Thien and Cai, who were arrested the next day.
Thien pleaded guilty last year and was also sentenced to 29 months jail and fined $100,000.
Cai’s lawyer Peter Ong had argued that his client was less culpable than Thien because he did not handle the money, nor did he arrange the meet-ups between the women and their clients.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jesintha Veijayaratnam disagreed, saying that both parties were equally guilty. She sought a sentence of 29 months’ jail and a $120,000 fine for Cai.
Judge Josephine Kang agreed with the prosecution. While she accepted that Thien played the additional role of revenue collector, she noted that this was “equalised, if not eclipsed” by the fact that Cai had started the business three years before Billy joined.
It was a “relatively sophisticated” operation with “one of the largest” number of prostitutes seen so far, said the judge, who added that Cai had to take responsibility for roping Thien into the business. Furthermore, the duo had agreed to split their profits evenly, indicating that they shared an equal amount of work.
Cai will begin his jail term on 3 May. The court had accepted his request for a two-week deferment so that he could arrange for the $100,000 fine to be paid. He is out on a $30,000 bail backed by his spouse and is not allowed to leave the country.
For living on the earnings of a prostitute, Cai could have been jailed up to five years, and fined up to $10,000 on each charge. The act of recruiting prostitutes carries the same punishment.
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