More details regarding Hong Wrong’s investigation into Earl Bagley have emerged. The SCMP reports that Bagley, also known as Steve Austin Conway, is now under investigation by local authorities following a complaint to the Labour Department. The American ex-fugitive is running a suspect business promising local maids lavish new lives in Las Vegas if they join his ‘membership club’ and wait up to four years.
Yesterday, the blog learnt that Mr Bagley has made repeated visits to the Refugee Union NGO headquarters. During a visit, a 43-year-old Filipino woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he claimed to be a lawyer, keen to help domestic workers with their legal cases. “The first day we met, he asked us to eat with him outside – we refused… because we don’t know him. He was very proud of himself and said he had lots of money – US$50,000 in his bag. He said he will pay for whatever we want to eat from Subway”. Bagley claimed to have 25 wives, she said.
Last year, he was extradited from Manila for failing to sign onto the US sex offenders’ registry. Since last November, Bagley has been ‘in violation’ of the same obligations once more, according to a US Department of Justice website.
Others within the local community have voiced concern.
- A Filipino woman expressed apprehension about the company in a call to the Helpers for Domestic Helpers helpline recently. When asked to comment on the investigation, Holly Allan – manager of the NGO – said that his business proposition seemed dubious. “Lax licensing requirements for employment agencies and the lack of effective monitoring mechanisms enable unscrupulous operators to flourish in Hong Kong. It is about time the government address this issue seriously and put in place more effective measures to protect all foreign domestic workers,” she added
- The US Consulate General for Hong Kong and Macau would not comment on the individual case but a spokesperson said “The U.S. Government always takes seriously allegations of any criminal activity by a U.S. citizen overseas. If anyone has concerns or evidence of criminal activity in Hong Kong, we encourage them to contact the Hong Kong police.”
- An HKU academic, who originally raised suspicions over Bagley’s companies, said that “the registration process is cursory at best” and noted how the Employment Agencies Administration (EAA) process is “not really regulated“. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for another agency registered by the EAA said they are “concerned that they are approving people like this… There is no way his financials make sense or are legal because he’s reclassifying a placement fee as a membership fee. Also, the US authorities only select a small handful of unskilled labour applicants.”