News and Press Releases

Pound Ridge Man Convicted for Luring Young Foreign Women to His Home for Sex Crimes

June 03, 2011

A federal jury in Brooklyn, New York, today found Joseph Yannai, author of The International Who’s Who of Cooks (2004-2005), guilty of forced labor and attempted forced labor, enticing women to travel to the United States from abroad so that he could commit sex crimes against them, fraud in labor contracting, and several immigration violations relating to his recruitment and employment of the women to work illegally in the United States. When sentenced, Yannai faces a maximum penalty of 80 years’ incarceration.

The convictions were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, James T. Hayes, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York, and Janet DiFiore, Westchester County District Attorney. The case was jointly investigated with the New York State Police Department and Pound Ridge Police Department.

The government’s evidence at trial established that between January 2003 and March 2009, Yannai searched au pair websites for young women from around the world to recruit to work in his home, which he shared with his wife. Yannai told the women that the work involved domestic services and clerical assistance. Yannai, however, used deception and fraud in recruiting the victims, even posing as two different women, “Joanna” and “Sylvia,” who had supposedly worked for Yannai before and who extolled Yannai’s virtues in email exchanges with the victims. In these fake emails, which were intended to allay the victims’ reservations about working for the defendant, “Joanna” and “Sylvia,” among other things, reassured the victims that Yannai had no intention of having sex with them.

As the evidence at trial showed, however, once the victims, five of whom testified at trial, arrived at Yannai’s Pound Ridge home, he subjected them to near-constant sexual abuse, which included groping the victims’ breasts and buttocks, digitally penetrating them, and attempting to force them to perform oral sex on him. Yannai sought to ensure the victims’ compliance with his increasingly more sexually abusive demands through fear, isolation, psychological coercion, and other means. Some of the victims were able to escape shortly after they arrived; others could not escape for months. Yannai was arrested after one of the victims escaped and went to a local police precinct.

“The defendant exploited and degraded his victims for criminal sexual purposes,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “The message to those who would engage in similar criminal conduct could not be clearer – you will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

“The defendant violated the trust of these women and, through his sexual abuse, demonstrated a blatant disregard for their dignity and well-being,” stated ICE/HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Hayes. “More than ever, we are committed to identifying innocent victims and arresting those who prey on them.”

Westchester County District Attorney DiFiore stated, “This defendant was the ultimate manipulator, who used fear and psychological coercion to intimidate his victims, leaving them isolated and feeling that they had no choice but to do whatever he asked. The jury’s verdict in this case affirms the importance of law enforcement at all levels working together to identify labor and sex traffickers and hold offenders, like this defendant, appropriately accountable for their crimes.”

The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Daniel Spector and Hilary Jager, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Audrey Stone, Second Deputy District Attorney and Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division, Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.

The Defendant:

Age: 66

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