updated 16 Apr 2010, 23:32
    Powered by
user id password
Tue, Apr 13, 2010
The New Paper
EmailPrintDecrease text sizeIncrease text size
I was too stupid to ask questions - Part 1
by Maureen Koh

WHEN they saw the online advertisement for part-time models, the young wannabes felt it was their way into the glamorous world of runways and fashion shoots.

Add to that the prospects of earning up to $700 for each assignment, and it was too much for Sara and Karen to resist.

What the young women didn't realise was that the "modelling agency owner" who auditioned them was a fake.

By the time he was exposed, they had not only posed nude for him, but also had sex with him based on the promise of more jobs.

Last month the bogus modelling agency owner, Tan Eng Hwa, 35, was jailed four years on charges including cheating and criminal intimidation. (See other report on facing page.)

In separate interviews this week, Sara and Karen (not their real names) shared their nightmare with The New Paper on Sunday so that their experience can serve as a warning to other young, aspiring models.

As they are victims of sexual crimes, the women cannot be named by law.

Sara, 19, was excited when she came across Tan's ad in June last year.

Said the student: "I'd always wanted to try modelling but never really had the chance to do it.

"In his ad, Tan said those interested did not need to have any experience."

Before Sara arranged to meet him, she told him that she had never modelled before.

She said: "He told me not to worry because he owned a modelling agency and his main aim was to groom newcomers."

Tan fixed an appointment for her to meet him at a budget hotel on Upper Serangoon Road.

Sara said: "Looking back, I should have realised that something was not right – but I was too stupid to ask.

"I also didn't want to make it seem like I was paranoid."

While she was "sort of prepared for some sexy shots", Sara said she was taken aback when she was asked to pose in the nude.

She said: "I felt a little uncomfortable but he said he would pay me $200 for the assignment."

Tan also assured Sara that she needn't worry because the shots would be tastefully done as he was a professional photographer.

During their conversation at the photo shoot, Sara mentioned to Tan that she was looking for some part-time work.

"He told me he could help get me some assignments if I didn't mind working as a social escort," she said.

"I guess I just didn't think straight. I don't know what came over me but I said I could consider it."

Tan also told her it was a common practice in the modelling industry.

Sara said: "But he told me that since I didn't have the experience, he'd help to train me instead and assured me that I won't be doing it for nothing.

"He said he would pay me $200 to have sex with him. I thought about it and finally agreed to it."

When they were done and about to leave, Tan said he didn't have enough money with him and promised to transfer the $200 to Sara's bank account the following day.

But she never heard from him again. And her shame over the incident kept her from telling anyone.

Sara said: "I felt so dumb afterwards. But I was more worried that my photos would be leaked out one day.

"I really would not have done it if I knew he was bogus."

She added: "I felt so much at ease when I found out he was arrested. At least now I don't have to live in fear.

"I can finally put everything behind me and move on with my life."

Same ruse

Tan used the same ruse on Karen, a 20-year-old student.

She responded to his online ad in November last year and met him at a budget hotel in Geylang.
Before that, Tan had also enticed her with stories of how his modelling agency had uncovered many new talents.

Karen, a modelling enthusiast, was excited by the thought of becoming a model.

She said: "It was like I could do something I like while earning some money."

When they met, he came prepared to allay any suspicion she may have had, by getting her to go through the "whole proper procedure" of filling up an application form.

Complimenting her on her looks, Tan said he would pay her $700 if she was agreeable to posing in lingerie and "taking some nude shots".
He also asked Karen if she was willing to take on assignments as a freelance social escort.

She said: "I told him I'd consider it on the condition that I didn't have to have sex with the clients."
Using the $700 fee as bait, Tan said Karen must have sex with him to justify the payment.

"He also said that it (the sex act) was a form of training if I wanted to obtain any assignments," said the student.

She eventually had sex with him.

Tan also promised to transfer the payment into Karen's bank account, but he never did.

She did not hear from him until about a week later when he called and said he wanted to meet her.

But by then, she realised "something was seriously wrong" as Tan had not kept his promise to pay her.

Karen said: "He gave all kinds of excuses, then said he wanted to have sex with me."

She rejected him and ended the call. But Tan continued to harass her with calls and SMSes.

When he realised that Karen would not give in, he threatened to post her nude photos on the Internet.

Afraid that Tan would carry out his threat, she made a police report.

Karen said: "The whole matter bothered me for some time – from the day I left the hotel room.

"I felt so relieved and happy – not just for myself, but also for the others who had fallen for his tricks."

While the incident has given Karen many sleepless nights, she said she has learned to appreciate her family more.

She said: "Seriously, when I realised the deep danger I was in, the only thing I could think of was, please, don't let my mum find out about it.

"I didn't want her to be angry with me."

While she declined to confirm whether her mother is now aware of what happened, Karen said that life has returned to normal.

She added: "I've grown and learned to be more mature now. I'm also sorry that I was such a rebellious child when I was in my teens.

"I'd yell at my mum and not listen to her, always feeling that she was a nag."

Karen now wants to focus only on her upcoming exams and studies.

"I refuse to allow it to get me down any more. It was a bad lesson – one that I hope others can learn from as well," she said.

"Money and materialistic gains are really not worth it for the pain and mental torture you have to live with."


See other stories:

>> He told me it's hard to be a model if I was so inhibited

>>How to tell real modelling agencies from fake ones


This article was first published in The New Paper.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2010 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.