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SINGAPORE, April 13 — A project leader at an engineering firm who sexually groomed a secondary school girl over the course of more than a year and paid her S$30 to S$50 (RM93 to RM155) each time they met up for sexual activities was jailed for 34 months on Monday (April 12).
Nick Chong Seng Cheong, 24, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual penetration of a minor under 14 and one count of possessing obscene films. Seven other charges relating to sexual penetration of an underage person were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court heard that he had started exploiting the girl when she was just 13 years old and he was 21. He initiated sex with her because he knew that she needed money to buy games and other things.
The victim cannot be named due to a court order protecting her identity.
There were occasions when Chong would tell the girl that he would pay her S$20 and when she asked for S$30 instead, he replied to say that he would have to see her “performance”.
On other occasions when the girl asked why he could not pay her more, Chong explained that he needed money to book “more expensive” hotels because the cheaper hotels would require her to show her identity card, thereby revealing her age.
They went to Hotel Boss along Jalan Sultan, Village Hotel (Bugis) and The Noble Hotel in Jalan Besar.
These meet-ups would often take place on weekdays, after the girl’s activities in school had ended.
Chong would tell her to change out of her school uniform to avoid rousing the suspicion of hotel employees. She was also told to act like his sister when he picked her up from the hotel lobby.
In sentencing Chong on Monday, District Judge Janet Wang said that while Chong did not rely on any use of force against the girl, there is no dispute that “a considerable measure of sexual grooming” had featured in his case.
She added that he knew that the victim was underage and the girl had not engaged in any form of sexual activities before knowing him, yet he exploited her need for money.
Being ‘friends with benefit’
Chong got acquainted with the victim through a chat application called ChatIW in October 2017.
He then suggested being “friends with benefit” with the 13-year-old and the girl agreed on the condition that she is paid whenever they engage in sexual activities.
The first time they met and engaged in sexual acts, they went to a toilet for handicapped persons at Tampines One mall.
They then continued meeting almost every month up to February 2019, with Chong paying S$100 for her to lose her virginity to him before they had their first sexual intercourse. He also exposed her to images of people having sex.
Each time they met at a hotel, Chong would ask the girl for two rounds of sex and the victim would comply. He took videos of them having sex together as well.
On March 12, 2019, the victim made a police report at Bedok North Neighbourhood Police Centre stating that she had sexual intercourse with several men, and that was how Chong’s offences came to light.
The prosecution sought a jail sentence of 36 months for Chong, while Chong’s lawyers, Josephus Tan, Marshall Lim and Cory Wong from Invictus Law Corporation, asked for not more than 30 months.
In their mitigation plea, the lawyers argued that the seven-and-a-half-year age gap between Chong and the girl is not objectively large, adding that their client was arguably still at the threshold age of 21 when he committed most of his offences.
Rehabilitation is the dominant consideration where the offender is 21 years and below, they highlighted.
Pointing out that Chong remained “gainfully employed” as a project engineer with a diploma as his highest qualification, they said that there is thus a platform for him to “anchor his rehabilitation around”.
“He is certainly not one to idle his life away,” they added.
They also said that Chong “arguably has no deep-seated criminality”.
For sexual penetration of a minor under 14, Chong could be jailed up to 20 years, fined or caned.
For possessing obscene films, he could have been fined between S$500 and S$20,000, jailed up to six months, or be punished with both. — TODAY