Brothel boss was paid for teen's services

·2-min read

A Melbourne brothel manager who admits getting paid for sexual services provided by a 16-year-old girl hopes to avoid jail so he can keep caring for his young children.

Cheng Li managed Heidelberg Angels in August 2019 when police learned the teen was working at the brothel.

The girl, now 20, had been living in a Department of Human Services residential care unit at the time.

She was hired after seeing an ad for an assistant dominatrix on Facebook. Another man, called "Mike", contacted her asking for identification.

The girl provided a learner's permit, which she altered with white-out and a permanent marker to change her year of birth from 2002 to 2092 before sending a blurry photo.

Meeting the man in person she told him her 27th birthday was coming up. She chose the name "Pixie" and volunteered to work at Heidelberg Angels that night - August 27, 2019.

"It was just sort of, 'great, you're willing to work. In you go'," she later told police of the hiring process.

She was paid in cash for services she provided as a dominatrix, using whips and other toys on clients. On five occasions clients negotiated penetrative sex with the teen.

Police began investigating in September 2019 after receiving a tip-off.

CCTV footage showed her there over four days in late August 2019.

Li, who was the manager of the brothel owned by his mother, told police it was hard to remember who "Pixie" was.

He denied any of the workers were under 18 and if he knew one was he would kick her out.

Li pleaded guilty to receiving payment for sexual services provided by a child.

During a pre-sentence hearing in the County Court on Wednesday, Li's defence barrister Theo Alexander urged Judge Angela Ellis to consider a non-custodial sentence.

The punishment of prison time would extend quite significantly to Li's partner because he is a major carer for their young children, including one who has a speech disorder and is attending speech pathology, he said.

"A lot would fall on (his partner) and I don't know to what extent the kindness of strangers can be relied on to meet that deficit," he said.

Judge Ellis noted Li's child had been referred for speech pathology in October 2019 and had attended five fortnightly sessions after starting in June this year.

Li will be assessed for a community corrections order before being sentenced on October 10.