Stiff term for 'model' swindler refused

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 12:00am

A judge yesterday refused a prosecution application to hand down a stiff jail sentence to a bogus modelling agent, disputing claims of a sharp rise in such cases.

District Court judge Derek Pang Wai-cheong imposed a two-year sentence on Wan Pak-cheung, 26, who had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud.

The court heard Wan was a director of Morgan (HK) Ltd, a purported modelling agency that lured people on the street by offering them bogus modelling jobs.

Wan was originally jointly charged with three employees of the company, all of whom were acquitted at a previous hearing.

The court heard victims were required to hand over credit cards or bank cards as a 'guarantee' they would complete the 'jobs'.

But Wan would take money from the victims through the cards provided. Eight men and women were swindled out of $331,300 between March and May 1999, the court heard.

Prosecutor Pamela Cheng, in seeking a tough sentence for Wan, submitted police statistics on modelling scams.

Ms Cheng said the number of reported cases rose from one in 1996 to 49 in 1999, which demonstrated the offence had become prevalent and warranted a stiffer sentence.

But Judge Pang responded by saying there had in fact been a drop in similar complaints recently. 'According to the statistics, there was in fact a drastic drop in the number of similar cases from that of 49 in 1999 to six for the first four months of this year.

'The amount of money swindled plunged from $22 million in 1997 to $70,000 [so far] this year . . .,' the judge said.

'I would say the peak time for such offences has passed. People in Hong Kong are on their guard against such deception after reading news reports.'