Pimp in online vice ring pleads guilty

SINGAPORE - Promising a job with easy cash, Malcolm Graham Head and his girlfriend tricked a 16-year-old into working as a prostitute in his online vice ring. They kept her under lock and key, fed her drugs so she could keep awake to serve more customers and, when she refused, beat her up.

It was after one particularly bloody beating that the girl, now missing, finally called her father, who then notified the police. Yesterday, the 33-year-old Head, a Singaporean, pleaded guilty to 17 of 41 charges, including 11 vice-related ones, the possession and use of drugs and causing grievous hurt to a customer.

District Judge Hamidah Ibrahim has adjourned the case to Feb 7 for a report to see if he is suitable for corrective training, where repeat offenders are jailed for five to 14 years. It is a harsher regime than jail and does not provide remission for good behaviour.

Pleading for leniency, Head's lawyer Amarjit Singh pointed out that his client, whose Singaporean girlfriend Veronica Patricia Rio gave birth around July, has yet to see his son.

He also said Head, who has been in remand since last March, promised to spend prison time reforming himself, so that he can rejoin society as a responsible member and raise his child with the 19-year-old Rio, who is currently being held in Changi Women's Prison.

Head previously served time for fraud, theft of vehicle and driving-related offences, as well as procuring women for sex. After his release from prison, he registered a social escort company called Wet Dreams in September 2012, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Elizabeth Chua.

The next month, he got to know the girl, who was then 16, through Facebook. Using the profile Ang Mo Kio Head, he promised her "fast cash" and "high pay" for only accompanying customers to dinners and other events. But on the very day she accepted the job at the end of October, she was told to have sex with a customer at a hotel in Balestier.

The girl was given a copy of Rio's identity card to show at the counter, as she was too young. When she was too tired, Head fed her methamphetamine so that she could stay up. Refusal to work and being rejected by customers meant beatings and other punishments.

Head also threatened to beat her if she ran away. "She was made to perform half squats, kneel and do the laundry for them when she declined to work," said DPP Chua. The couple would take the victim out of Rio's flat in Henderson Road only when she had customers. Half the money she got was given to Head or Rio, and they would spend it on personal expenses.

On Nov 14, the girl was subjected to an hour-long assault by the couple after returning late. She was punched, slapped and left with a bleeding nose. The next day, she used a cellphone belonging to Rio's father to send a text message to her own father. He went to the flat and found his daughter covered in bruises.

He called the police. In December, she rejoined Head's vice ring but stopped after a few days. After a pregnant Rio pleaded with her, lying she was no longer with Head, the minor resumed work again in February last year.

She worked for the couple until early March, when police arrested Head and several of his accomplices. The minor, meanwhile, cannot be contacted. After getting permission from the girl's parents, the DPP yesterday successfully applied for her to be detained temporarily in a place of custody when she is found.

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