Nine people were sentenced to community service yesterday for acting as middlemen in a syndicate dealing in forged bus passes. Assistant managers Man Wai-chung, 30, and Wong Wai-man, 32, printers Chan Tai-wai, 32, Tweety Leong Chui-yee, 30, and Leung Hon-wing, 30, accounts clerk Kathy Lai Suk-fun, 24, furniture shop proprietor Chan Chi-wai, 32, beautician Helen Lau Wai-lung, 30, and casual worker Lau Yat-leung, 21, were each ordered to perform 180 hours' community service by District Court Judge Wesley Wong Wing-fai. The nine had earlier pleaded guilty to 19 offences, including conspiracy to defraud and possessing forged bus passes. The court heard the nine defendants, together with three masterminds, had conspired with others to defraud New World First Bus Services Limited by selling or distributing forged company bus passes to people not entitled to use them. The firm issues passes to its staff and their dependants. The three syndicate heads - warehouse worker Lau Tat-fai, driver Wong Sum-chung and civil servant Lee Tin-yau - were jailed for 17 months on Christmas Eve. The court heard Wong had bribed First Bus driver Wong Tak-ming $1,000 to give him a genuine pass. Lau, Wong's partner-in-crime, then took the pass to the mainland for mass production. Bus driver Wong was given a three-month suspended jail sentence and fined $2,000. The core members initially used the forged passes among themselves and friends but expanded the 'business' in January 2000 and sold the passes for $800 to $1,800 each. The offences took place between August 1998 and April last year. Suspended jail sentences or community service orders were imposed on 17 others found to have bought the fake passes. ICAC investigator Tang Chi-kong said in all 63 forged passes were seized. He said the operation was initiated after a member of the public complained about rumours of fake bus passes. A spelling mistake had been spotted on the fake passes for last year, with 'travel' being printed as 'trvel'. The bus company reissued new bus passes after the fake scam was exposed in February last year. But the loss caused to First Bus cannot be estimated, Mr Tang said.