Man helped Thai sex work syndicate operating in Singapore transfer S$75,000 overseas, gets jail

Man helped Thai sex work syndicate operating in Singapore transfer S$75,000 overseas, gets jail

SINGAPORE: After befriending a woman he met at a karaoke lounge in Golden Mile Complex, a man agreed to help her transfer money to Thailand using his Singapore bank account.

He thought it was to remit money earned in Singapore by the woman’s massage workers, but in reality she was a central figure in an illegal Thailand-based syndicate operating a sex work ring in Singapore.

Mangmeesri Chanwit, a 47-year-old Thai man, was sentenced to six weeks’ jail on Thursday (Feb 8) for running an illegal cross-border payment service that supported vice activities in Singapore.

The court heard that Mangmeesri, a chef, met a woman known only as Moon at a karaoke lounge in Golden Mile Complex in April 2022.

They became friends and Moon told Mangmeesri that she owned a massage parlour in Thailand. She said some of her workers would be coming to Singapore on short-term visit passes to work.

She then made a cross-border money transfer arrangement with Mangmeesri. 

Mangmeesri allowed his bank account to be used for Moon’s customers to deposit payments for her workers’ services in Singapore.

She would inform Mangmeesri each time there was a deposit, and Mangmeesri would help confirm that the correct amount had been transferred to his bank account.

Once a certain sum was deposited, Moon would inform Mangmeesri to remit the received money to a bank account in Thailand, and Mangmeesri would comply.

Under this arrangement, Mangmeesri received about S$75,150 (US$55,800) in his bank account between May 24, 2022 and Jul 5, 2023. 

He arranged for about 40 cross-border money transfers to Moon or her syndicate, and was rewarded with a sum of about S$5,000 in return.

BUSTED

In early 2023, the police received information that a certain website was offering illegal sexual and massage services in Singapore. The website was linked to a Thailand number and a local Singapore number. 

The police uncovered that a Thailand-based syndicate was operating what they called “an illegal prostitution ring” in Singapore.

On May 16, 2023, the police raided Hotel 81 Lavender and arrested a 27-year-old Thai sex worker with the working name “Jimy”.

The police arrested two more sex workers – Thai nationals aged 29 and 30 who used the working names Yoki and Bee – on Jun 19, 2023. 

Mangmeesri was arrested on Jul 5, 2023 after the police raided his workplace. His bank account was frozen with a sum of S$1,371.97 in it – of which S$830 were criminal proceeds.

INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE SYNDICATE

Investigations revealed that the syndicate had been recruiting and dispatching illegal sex workers to Singapore.

The three sex workers arrested by the police had been referred by their friends to Moon, a Thai agent.

Jimy paid Moon an agent fee of 5,000 baht (US$139). In return, Moon arranged for Jimy to travel to Singapore, and helped her look for accommodation. 

Jimy would pay for her own air tickets, lodging and food.

While in Singapore, Jimy provided massage and sexual services to the syndicate’s customers.

For non-sexual Thai massages, she would be allowed to keep for herself S$70 for 60-minute sessions and S$100 for 90-minute sessions. For sexual services, Jimy would pocket S$100 and S$150 respectively.

If Jimy wanted to offer sexual intercourse to her customers, she could charge additional sums of S$150 to S$200, which she got to keep completely.

Moon and the syndicate would advertise Jimy’s sexual services on the website and liaise with customers on her behalf.

Jimy said she was directed to collect payment from all customers before providing any massage or sexual services.

The customers were to pay in cash or via PayNow to a number belonging to Mangmeesri and linked to his bank account.

She had about 24 customers between May 3 and May 15 last year, with half paying via PayNow.

The other two sex workers, Yoki and Bee, arrived in Singapore on Jun 6 last year and paid Moon agent fees of 10,000 baht each.

Yoki provided sexual intercourse to three customers for between S$200 and S$250 between Jun 11 and Jun 17 last year.

Bee provided sexual intercourse to 10 customers for S$150 each between Jun 9 and Jun 18 last year. Both sex workers also provided massage services, remitting their massage earnings to Moon.

MANGMEESRI QUESTIONED

When the syndicate was investigated and Mangmeesri questioned for his links to it, he said he was unaware about the illegal sex work carried out by the syndicate.

However, he admitted that he knew his actions were illegal. A friend had warned him in early 2023 that it would be “dangerous” and “not good” for him to allow his bank account to be used by others.

However, Mangmeesri said he continued to have his payment arrangement with Moon as he “did not think too much” and did not expect to be caught.

The police found text messages between Mangmeesri and Moon on the chat application Line, where Moon contacted Mangmeesri after Jimy’s arrest.

After this, Mangmeesri deleted all his messages with Moon. He told the police that he had a habit of deleting messages “because they cause his phone to lag”.

On Jun 6, 2023, Moon called Mangmeesri to tell him that her workers had been arrested along with 10 other people.

The prosecution sought six weeks’ jail for Mangmeesri, saying he had helped the syndicate move about S$75,000 out of Singapore.

“Crucially, this large sum of money is linked to illegal vice activities in Singapore,” he said.

The offences spanned over a year, between May 2022 and July 2023.

The prosecutor said police investigations indicate that the syndicate had informal networks in Thailand which enabled it to recruit sex workers bound for Singapore.

Members of the syndicate were familiar with Singapore and could set up a “sophisticated chain of operations”, said the prosecutor.

This includes travel arrangements, securing accommodation, the running of a website advertising the sexual services and handling multiple chat groups to coordinate the business.

The prosecutor said Mangmeesri was motivated by greed and was rewarded handsomely for his services, receiving between S$50 and S$100 for each cross-border fund transfer.

In total, he received about S$5,000, which was more than 150 per cent of his monthly salary as a chef, the prosecution said.

For running an unlicensed payment service, Mangmeesri could have been jailed for up to three years, fined up to S$125,000, or both.