Ex-Worldwide saleslady gets 11 years for drug trafficking

WITH two prior convictions for breach of condition of stay and her live-in partner in jail, her only means for living was to help a drug dealer manufacture and deliver the illegal substance.

This predicament led 40-year-old Florence de Pedro, a former saleslady at the World-Wide House in Central, to an 11- year prison term after pleading guilty to the charge of trafficking in dangerous drugs.

De Pedro first came to Hong Kong in 1993 when she was a few months shy of 17 years old and by December 1994, or at 18, she married a local Chinese man, with whom she had one child.

For some reason, she only got a dependent’s visa and was never able to be a permanent resident in Hong Kong. De Pedro and the Chinese man had a son, who is now said to be in his “20s”.

After her marriage ended in September 1999, De Pedro then began working as a saleslady at one of the shops in World-Wide House and was then earning some $5,500 in monthly salary until 2002.

In 2001, she began a relationship with a Pakistani who is a Hong Kong permanent resident. However, De Pedro could not marry the Pakistani because she was still married to her first husband whom by that time she had no contact with anymore.

She also lost contact with her first son. After moving in with the Pakistani, De Pedro had five children with him. In 2013, however, the Pakistani was remanded in jail custody for trafficking in dangerous drugs. He was serving a jail term of two and a half years.

At the time, De Pedro was only staying in Hong Kong “in recognizance” and was barred by the Immigration Department to engage in any paid work.

Recognizing that she would have no other way to support herself and her children when De Pedro’s live-in partner was jailed, authorities took the couple’s children and put them under the government’s care.

With no subsidy, no means for living, and no one to support her, the Pakistani man then introduced De Pedro to a certain “Cynthia C. or Azo”, who provided the Filipino woman with a room in Mong Kok. The defendant began living in the room in Mong Kok since December 1, 2014.

While living in the room, De Pedro’s lawyer said, the Filipino did not need to worry for anything else as Azo provided and paid for food, electricity, and water.

The defense lawyer said Azo manufactured drugs and De Pedro would then be paid $500 a day to deliver the illegal substance.

On May 1, 2015, while De Pedro was leaving the room, she was intercepted by cops who took her keys and entered the room.

Armed with a search warrant, the cops then found 498 grams of a mixture of cocaine, heroin, and ketamine contained in 40 plastic bags and some on an electronic scale, metal sleeve, and chopsticks.

Also found in the flat were packaging paraphernalia, a booklet containing the suspected dangerous drugs record, and a video recording of De Pedro’s communication with “Azo”.

In a hearing on March 4, De Pedro’s lawyer sought “mercy” from Deputy high Court Judge S. D’Almada Remedios, saying the Filipino did not realize the gravity of the offense that she was committing.

Judge D’Almada Remedios however said that looking at the photos of the flat when it was searched by the cops that “there’s a hell lot of drugs [in there].”

“When her Pakistani boyfriend was remanded in jail, the government took her children because [authorities] knew she had no way to support herself. She stupidly, foolishly chose this way to maintain her living. She is no drug addict, and she only used ice when her boyfriend gave it to her,” De Pedro’s lawyer argued, while the defendant wiped tears from her eyes.

The lawyer added that De Pedro did not derive any profit from the transactions.

“She is a lady of difficult life,” the lawyer said.

In a bid to seek a lighter sentence, the defense lawyer submitted to the court two letters – one from the defendant and another from the Pakistani, who admitted to the judge that he was responsible for introducing De Pedro to Azo. The defendant, meanwhile, expressed her remorse over her involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

The lawyer also said the defendant gave to the police the number of Azo, but said De Pedro was wary of fully cooperating with the authorities owing to the danger it might pose to her children.

Judge D’Almada Remedios acknowledged the “difficult situation” that De Pedro was in, but said the defendant should have realized the gravity of her offense as her Pakistani boyfriend was in jail for the same crime.

With 462.76 grams of heroin or cocaine (with ketamine converted into the same substance for a single tariff), the judge sentenced the Filipina to 16 years and six months in prison. Owing to the defendant’s guilty plea, the judge discounted a third of the sentence, bringing De Pedro’s jail term to 11 years.

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