Women jailed for posing as inmates' friends during paid prison visits
Three housewives were jailed yesterday for conspiracy to defraud prison officers, in the first case of its kind locally.
Liu Lirong, 33, Shuai Shaoping, 29, and Kwan Man-kau, 38, said they were paid to pose as inmates' friends to visit them.
Kwun Tong Court heard that they had worked for a company that advertised its visit-arrangement services outside the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre.
The three women and six co-defendants initially pleaded not guilty, but the trio later changed their pleas to guilty. They each received two-month sentences.
Lawyer Victor Ho, representing Liu and Shuai, said they did not know the seriousness of what they had done, but pleaded guilty and were regretful.
Matthew Ngai, for Kwan, said she had worked for the firm after being introduced by a relative.
"She thinks that she was very stupid for having carelessly mistrusted others," Ngai said.
Principal Magistrate Ernest Lin Kam-hung said the court accepted the case was not as serious as perverting the course of justice, but it had to hand down cautionary sentences as the offenders had made false statements to correctional services officers and had been paid to do so.
"They played a comparatively minor role, but without these frontline workers, such a crime could not have been committed," he said.
Lin took a starting point of three months for the sentences but reduced them to two in recognition of the guilty pleas.
Outside the court, superintendent Gregory Lau Tat-keung of Sham Shui Po district said: "Since we took down this company and launched an extensive arrest operation, similar visits to correctional services facilities have ended."
The court heard earlier that the three worked for IPS-Care, a company that arranged for people to visit inmates in the Lai Chi Kok centre for HK$120 a time, charging customers more if they wanted the paid visitors to pass on messages, food or necessities.
IPS-Care distributed promotional leaflets outside the centre.
The three women, who moved from the mainland some years ago, worked part time for HK$35 an hour.
The firm's owner and five other employees will be tried late next month.