A mother who pimped out illegally trafficked women as part of a £150,000 (€170,000) prostitution ring has been spared jail after arguing prison time would have had a negative impact on her privately educated child.
Li Wei Gao, 44, was found guilty of prostitution and trafficking offences relating to a string of debt-ridden women from China and South Korea.
She helped run the operation with former partner and Surrey-based dog breeder Hong Chin and his lover Ting Li Lu, with women pimped out for £100 an hour in budget hotels across the south of England and Wales.
The "sordid" ring was described by a judge as a "sexual conveyor belt", with one exploited victim revealing how she had sex with as many as 10 men a day.
It was said to have funded a "lavish lifestyle" for the trio, which included exclusive golf club membership and £1,400-a-month private school fees.
Chin, 46, was jailed for four years last week for playing a leading role in the gang.
But Judge Philip Katz suspended the sentences of his two co-defendants at the Old Bailey on Friday (3 November).
Gao, of Oxshott, Surrey, was handed a two-year sentence, suspended for two years, while Lu, from Portsmouth, was given a 26-week sentence, suspended for two years.
"It was a manipulative and exploitative role that you played," Judge Katz told Gao during sentencing.
"You played a vital and leading role in making this business run smoothly... I think like Chin you were motivated by greed."
Minka Braun, mitigating, said Gao was the "primary carer" of the child and that her academic and musical success at school was "directly attributed to her mother's care".
Urging the judge to suspend the sentence, Braun added that the impact Gao's criminality had incurred on her family "is not lost on her".
On top of the suspended sentence, Gao was ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work.
The court heard how Lu had played a lesser role in the gang's operation and over a shorter period of time. On top of the suspended sentence, she was ordered to complete 50 hours of unpaid work.
Police first became aware of the prostitution network in February 2015 when one of the victims reported being debt-bonded.
Investigators became suspicious and gathered evidence from mobile phones, adult websites and booking records.
Detectives eventually found more than £150,000 had been paid into bank accounts linked to the operation run by Chin, Gao and Lu over a period of two years.
In total, Sussex Police identified 19 victims – all from China and South Korea – who were exploited by the gang between February 2013 and June 2015.
Trafficked women were advertised as prostitutes online and sent to meet with clients in budget hotels all over southern England and Wales.
This included in Maidstone, Gatwick, Cardiff, Brighton, Eastbourne, Bournemouth, Guildford, Southampton, Woking and Exeter.
CCTV footage seized by police showed the defendants escorting women to various hotels around the country.
One of the victims gave evidence to the court and revealed how she was forced to have sex with up to 10 men a day – with half her earnings then given to her handlers.
Prosecutors said it was "almost impossible for them to escape" the sex worker life they had found themselves trapped in.
At the same time, Chin led a double life running a dog breeding kennel on a country estate in Esher, Surrey, where Gao, originally from China, lived in a converted barn with their daughter.
Believed to have been born in Malaysia, Chin lived with his lover Lu in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey and would even judge local dog competitions.
His victims were believed to have been debt-bonded to traffickers in China. Many rejected support offered by the UK authorities after the police busted the network and all but one – the woman who gave evidence in court – returned to their home countries.
During the trial, the fourth person charged in connection with the case, Hong Kong national and London taxi driver Wing Yeun, 41, was found not guilty of all charges against him.