March 25, 2023

The manager of a Melbourne brothel where a teenage girl was sold for sex will not spend a day behind bars for his despicable crime.

Cheng Li, 35, of Mitcham, pleaded guilty in Victoria County Court for having forced the 16-year-old child into sex work.

Li was in charge of Heidelberg Angel in September 2019 when police stormed the property and rescued the child.

The teen was hired as an “assistant” to the dominatrix, but repeatedly took part in kinky sex sessions with men.

Ying Yang, 51, will leave Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in 2020. She was accused of being the madam of a brothel that employed a 16-year-old as a sex worker at the Vernon Street brothel. Cheng Li can be seen directly behind her

Melbourne brothel Heidelberg Angel hired a 16-year-old girl to satisfy men’s fetishes

The brothel advertised it as the ‘Best Asian brothel’ in Melbourne

Cheng Li, 35, from Mitcham, had nothing to say when he left a Melbourne court in 2020. He pleaded guilty to pimping a teenager, but again walked free from court on Monday

The teen was believed to have been under the care of Victorian Child Protective Services when she started working at the brothel.

The court heard that the child had messed up her education permit to trick Li’s recruiter into believing she was 27 – 11 years older than she actually was.

Under Li’s watchful eye, the teen, who cannot be named by name for legal reasons, would be picked up in an Uber and taken to work.

The cost of that ride would later be deducted from her earnings, which was only $100 per session, according to a court.

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Li was sentenced by Angela Ellis, a judge of the County Court of Victoria, to a three-year correction from the community, on condition that he perform 400 hours of unpaid work and pay a $1,000 fine.

He walked free from court on Monday without spending a single minute behind bars.

By allowing Li to remain free, Judge Ellis said she accepted the lengthy delay needed to complete the case and the harsh conditions inmates face amid ongoing Covid-19 requirements in Victorian prisons.

Li presented to the court that he was a family man, cooking, cleaning and caring for his young children while his wife toiled in a factory.

The court heard that he had little to no regrets about the impact of his actions on his young victim, who gave Judge Ellis a sad victim statement.

The teen stated that working in the brothel had had a “major impact” on her well-being, leaving her feeling hopeless for her future prospects.

The young girl said she was “haunted” through her time in the brothel and now struggled with anxiety and falling asleep.

“She fears she may never help,” Judge Ellis told the unrepentant Li.

The court heard that Li had come to Melbourne from China to run the brothel for his mother, who dropped all charges against her in July.

At his arrest, Li claimed to be ignorant of his teenage worker’s age.

“When you say it generously, you turned a blind eye and let a vulnerable 16-year-old child engage in sex work for your financial reward,” Judge Ellis told Li.

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Judge Ellis convicted Li for his lack of remorse and his constant complaint about the impact his indictment on the crime had had on his own life.

“I’m disturbed by the apparent lack of appreciation you have for the seriousness of your offense . . . there seems to be very little evidence of your regret,” she said.

“The remorse shown has indeed to do with the position you are in now.”

Heidelberg Angels (pictured) was arrested for employing a child as a sex worker

Heidelberg Angel has listed its rates on its website. Police allege a teenage girl was hired out to her clients for sex

The brothel promoted itself to a largely Asian clientele.

Just 5 minutes from the Northland Shopping Centre, Heidelberg Angel is one of the most popular Asian brothels to be found in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs,” it boasts.

“Heidelberg Angel is your stopover for a gentleman’s fun.”

The brothel claimed to adhere to the Victoria’s Sex Work Act of 1994.

“To protect our girls and ensure their rights, while providing our customers with great men’s pleasure,” it reads.

“We follow every rule of the Victoria Sex Work Act 1994 to provide a legal and licensed environment for both you and our girls.”

The brothel claimed to employ girls from Australia and China, Japan, India and the United Kingdom.

“Our angels come from all over the world to bring you an authentic sexual experience around the world,” it claims.

Google reviews of the establishments reveal that the brothel was under pressure from customers to hire younger women.

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“The girls are too old and the service was too short and less than the time I paid,” wrote one disgruntled customer just under a year ago.

“Only 2 old ladies when I was there not coming back,” wrote another.

One review received a response from the owner defending the alleged age of his employees.

‘Dear customer, I’m sorry I made you feel bad! There were eight girls in their twenties in our shop today. We update every day girls, welcome to visit again,” the message read.

Xiang Zhang, from Doncaster, is being questioned by Channel 9 news dog Eliza Rugg. The 60-year-old had dumped his charges

Ying Yang, 51, has faced allegations of child sex exploitation amid allegations that she put a 16-year-old up for sale. All charges against her were dropped in July