Online vice ring: Teen sentenced to reformative training

Online vice ring: Teen sentenced to reformative training

A teenager who helped her former boyfriend run his online vice ring was sentenced to reformative training on Monday.

Veronica Patricia Rio, 19, abetted clients to pay for sex with an underage prostitute - and even helped pimp Malcolm Graham Head to beat up the 16-year-old when she turned up late at Rio's home in November 2012.

While pregnant with Head's child in March last year, Rio also took part in the assault of a French client at his Marina Bay Residences unit after a misunderstanding over the type of sexual service he required. The 54-year-old product line manager had a broken jaw and a black eye.

Rio pleaded guilty to 15 charges last month, and another 24 were taken into consideration. Proceeded charges included procuring women to prostitute, managing a brothel and voluntarily causing grievous hurt.

Reformative training is a strict regime in which offenders under 21 are kept behind bars for between 1½ and three years as they undergo structured rehabilitation programmes.

Asking the district court for a probation term, Rio's lawyer said she was associated with the business only by nature of her relationship with Head, a link she regretted. He said his client feared that Head would become abusive towards her or leave her, and has since distanced herself from him.

But Deputy Public Prosecutor Elizabeth Chua said probation was unsuitable for Rio, pointing to previous offences and a recent probation order she breached. DPP Chua added that Rio used violence despite her pregnancy and committed the offences willingly.

Rio, who gave birth to Head's son last year while remanded, dropped out of school when she was 14. Her parents are divorced and she was physically abused by her father, court documents said.

Head, who previously spent almost nine years in jail for other offences, was sentenced last month to seven years of corrective training and ordered to be given seven strokes of the cane. He was also given a 16-year driving ban for ignoring a 12-year disqualification.

Two other co-accused - a man and a woman - who also took part in last year's fight with the French client were sentenced last year to reformative training and jail respectively for their involvement, and for separate offences. A third, a prostitute with the ring, will be dealt with after she jumped bail but was caught.

Eight clients of the ring have been dealt with for having commercial sex with a minor under 18. This carries a maximum penalty of seven years' jail and a fine.

pohian@sph.com.sg


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