British Columbia

Naked photo extortion ends in shame and jail for B.C. student

Offenders parents fear they were too hard on him over small mistakes like not completing his homework

International student was held, stripped, photographed and then extorted for $10,000

Nineteen-year-old Hao Ming Chen has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for forcibly confining and stripping an international student and then threatening to post naked picture unless he received $10,000. (CBC)

Hao Ming Chen's parents wondered if they were too hard on him.

They had yelled and cursed at him for "small mistakes such as not finishing his homework."

And they regretted leaving the 19-year-old at home for a month when he was in Grade 11.

Could any of that explain the young man's behaviour or the reason why — earlier this month — Chen found himself in Vancouver provincial court, apologizing for a horrific crime of degradation before being led off to jail?

Judge Jennifer Oulton sentenced Chen to 15 months after he pleaded guilty — along with a young offender — to forcibly confining and stripping an international student of his clothes.

The pair then took naked pictures of the victim and threatened to post them on the internet unless he paid them $10,000.

"Mr. Chen was the perpetrator of the majority of the violence which took place. He cut, punched and choked the victim. Mr. Chen also threatened to kill the victim if he went to the police," Oulton said in her reasons for sentence.

"This crime had a significant impact on the victim. The forcible undressing and then taking naked photos of the victim was a serious intrusion on the victim's bodily integrity."

'He ... brought shame on his family'

The crimes occurred in February 2017 when Chen was 18.

He moved to Canada with his family from China in 2009 and became a Canadian citizen in 2016. According to the judgment, his father's work often requires him to be away in China.

"(Chen) feels shame and he feels he has brought shame on his family," the judgment says. "He is no longer associating with the people he was spending time with in February 2017."

After forcibly confining and stripping the student, Chen and his co-accused took pictures and threatened to post them online if he didn't pay $10,000.

Chen and his co-accused forced their 23-year-old victim into a room in a party house for more than three hours.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Chen struck the victim in the face and head several times and choked him to the point of near unconsciousness.

He also used a multipurpose tool to slash the man's knee, ankle and wrist before striking the blunt end of the instrument into the victim's left eye.

"They forcibly undressed the victim and took pictures of him in which he was undressed. They demanded $10,000," Oulton wrote,

"They received $1,100 from the victim while he was still confined and demanded an additional $9,000, or the naked photos would be posted on the Internet."

'Occasional harsh treatment'

After the victim called police, investigators set up an operation which culminated in the arrest of Chen and his co-accused at a pre-arranged meeting where they thought they would be getting the remainder of the extortion money.

Oulton said the victim has suffered emotionally with the aftermath of the crimes and has difficulty trusting people.

"He has suffered financially, dropping out of school right after this happened. An international student, his fees were already high, and he lost this money," the judge wrote.

"He has adjusted his current studies to a less onerous program."

According to the judgment, Chen graduated from high school and has no prior criminal record. He has also been admitted to university to study business administration.

His parents provided a letter of support in which they apologized for their son's actions and also acknowledged their regrets for "occasional harsh treatment of him."

Chen wrote a letter to the judge and the Crown in which he apologized to the victim and expressed remorse.

But none of that was enough to save him from jail.

"These are serious offences, and Mr. Chen's moral blameworthiness is high," Oulton wrote. 

"It would assist to understand the motivation for these crimes, but while some motivations were suggested to me, there were no explanations that were sufficiently reliable for me to consider."

The young offender was given a sentence equivalent to seven and a half months in custody.

In addition to the jail sentence, Chen will also have to serve two years' probation.