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Sex secrets in the suburbs; MADAM'S EMPIRE OF BROTHELS SMASHED IN UNDERCOVER POLICE PROBE.

Byline: ADAM JUPP ; GARRY WILLEY

SECRET suburban sex dens were smashed in an undercover police probe.

The network of seedy brothels were set up by a scheming madam who trapped a high-flying civil servant in her web of sin.

Hai Hong Lui was behind the brothel empire which she based in rented homes before attracting punters via downmarket newspaper adverts.

But her sex scam was smashed when police posed as punters and were offered a range of "services" by the working girls she had recruited.

That led to a series of co-ordinated strikes on her brothels in Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and County Durham.

And a hand-written love letter found during the searches linked topranking civil servant John David Wilkinson to Lui, whom he first met as a punter.

But before he knew it, Wilkinson, 61, was paying her pounds 1,000 a month for what he thought were exclusive services and helping her run her debauched operation.

Now, Lui, 55, has been jailed for nine months at Newcastle Crown Court, while her accomplice escaped with a pounds 1,500 fine.

Another man caught up in the racket, Kenneth Moat, 51, of Studley Villas, Forest Hall, received a 12 month conditional discharge for his role in transporting a working girl around. The court heard Lui, of Eastbourne Avenue, Shipcote, Gateshead, turned her back on a career as an interior designer to run a restaurant but eventually became a prostitute.

Fellow working girls, mostly from China and South East Asia, looked up to her because she spoke good English and that led to her managing their movements in and out of the North East, where she put them to work in brothels she had established.

Lui first met Wilkinson, of Moorhill Court, Sunderland, when he came to her as a client, which he claimed was for a massage he needed for a bad back.

But he went on to help Lui arrange tenancy agreements with landlords, who had no idea their properties were being turned into dingy dens of debauchery. Peter Gair, prosecuting, said "working girls" involved were all willing volunteers, including one who planned to use the money she made to go back to China and open a food shop and told the court classified ads were placed in a series of publications.

Callers to the advertised mobile number were given directions to the brothels, where sexual services would be offered for pounds 60 for half an hour. Prostitutes could also be delivered to customers' homes or hotels.

The undercover police probe - codenamed Caspian - led to a wave of strikes involving 100 officers from three forces and the UK Border Agency. Sex dens on Tavistock Road, Jesmond, and Hartington Street and Walter Terrace, both Arthur's Hill, Newcastle, were busted, along with ones on Rawlings Road, Bensham, Gateshead, and Rutland Street, Sunderland, as well as premises in Middlesbrough and Darlington. Lui, who has also lived in Heaton and Forest Hall, was arrested at the Rawlings Road address and went on to plead guilty to controlling prostitution for gain and acting in the management of the Tavistock Road brothel and one on Eastmount Road, Darlington.

She had been cautioned in May 2008 for running a sex den in Simonside Terrace, Heaton which she claimed was a legitimate massage parlour. Judge Guy Whitburn said he accepted none of the prostitutes had been "trafficked" as sex workers but said Mercedes-driving Lui had risen from being a working girl to become a "key player" in the two brothels involved concerned.

Wilkinson, of Moorhill Court, Sunderland, was dragged into the frame when police found a note he had sent to Lui, discussing how lucky the pair had been to avoid detection by the police.

After learning of his involvement, detectives swooped to arrest him as he arrived back into the UK after a holiday in Barbados.

Wilkinson, who had previously worked as a grade seven civil servant, admitted controlling prostitution for gain and assisting in the management of the Darlington den.

Eric Elliott QC, representing Wilkinson, said: "It is quite clear during the period, which grew from a massage at a flat, as far as he was concerned he was in a loving relationship.

He was totally besotted about her. "He got no financial benefit at all. At the end of the day the court is dealing with a very sad man who stands both embarrassed and humiliated."

Moat admitted assisting in the management of the Tavistock Road den, pleading guilty on the agreed basis his involvement was to collect one prostitute from Birmingham and deliver her to the brothel.

He was spotted arriving at the premises in a distinctive green Alpha Romeo car.

CAPTION(S):

RAID: Police move in on a brothel operating in a rented property in the suburb of Jesmond JAILED: Brothel madam Hai Hong Lui
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 13, 2010
Words:802
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