Hong Kong court jails US national for 3 months over drug possession, trafficking in case linked to overdose death at hotel

Hong Kong court jails US national for 3 months over drug possession, trafficking in case linked to overdose death at hotel

A golf coach has been sentenced to three months in jail on charges of drug possession and trafficking over a case involving the death of a Hongkonger who overdosed in a hotel room two years ago.

United States national Michael Ikaika Tai Seichi Saromines, 40, appeared in Eastern Court for sentencing on Wednesday, a day after 46-year-old Jerry Liu Wai-ip was jailed for eight months in connection with the same case.

The pair earlier pleaded guilty to possessing two syringes containing traces of the drugs dipentylone and etizolam, as well as a crystalline solid containing methamphetamine and dipentylone.

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In July 2022, Saromines and Liu were arrested after they shared a room in Hotel Madera Hollywood in Central with Chen Te-ming, who died at the scene. Both were initially charged with manslaughter, which was later withdrawn by the prosecution.

Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui Yee-mei said that although a custodial sentence must be imposed, she noted the offence was committed over a “social drug-sharing” night when an “unfortunate” tragedy occurred.

“It is a tragedy not expected by you or your friend [Liu],” she said.

Chui learned from Saromines’ mitigation letters that he was acting out of character on the night of the incident but voluntarily told police where the drugs had come from and even confessed to trafficking the narcotic.

“He was devastated not only because of the present proceedings but also of the unfortunate loss of a good friend that [he] cherished,” she said.

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Eastern Law Courts Building in Sai Wan Ho. Golf coach Michael Saromines appeared in court for sentnecing on Wednesday. Photo: Nora Tam

The court earlier heard that Saromines had been friends with Chen for four to six months. He added they both smoked meth that the deceased provided in the hotel room at that time.

Saromines revealed that he then fell asleep and woke to Chen snoring and alive. He said he went to the toilet and discovered the deceased had stopped snoring when he came back out.

He and Liu then moved Chen into the bathroom, but he was already unresponsive at that time.

2 men admit to drug offences after manslaughter charge dropped in Hong Kong

Saromines performed cardiac resuscitation on Chen before seeking help from a hotel manager.

The defence counsel said rehabilitation reports proved Saromines was not a drug addict, stressing he had been actively and regularly seeking professional help.

Before handing down a ruling, Chui took into consideration sentencing guidelines on drug trafficking for social use, which set the starting point for prison terms below six months.

She handed Saromines a two-month sentence for possessing drugs and another three months for trafficking. Both sentences are to be served concurrently.

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