NINE CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH INTERNATIONAL SEX TRAFFICKING RING
Criminal Organization Transported Asian Women Through National Network of Brothels
Nine people were charged this morning in U.S. District Court in Seattle in connection with an international sex trafficking ring. Seven of the defendants arrested this morning will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 this afternoon. Two of the defendants were arrested in Los Angeles and will make their initial appearances there. Eight defendants are charged with Conspiracy to Transport Individuals in Furtherance of Prostitution and Conspiracy to Transport and Harbor Illegal Aliens. Four of the defendants are also charged with Conspiracy to Engage in Money Laundering. The ninth defendant was charged in a separate complaint with Conspiracy to Transport Individuals in Furtherance of Prostitution.
According to the complaint, the defendants were involved in a highly organized national network prostitution ring. YONG JUN KANG, 36, of Seattle, operated brothels in Portland and Seattle. KANG conspired with others to transport Asian women, most of whom were illegally in the U.S. to work at his brothels for ten to fourteen days. The women would then be transported to other brothels in other cities. PENQUAN XIE, 48, of Los Angeles, California and ZHEN QU, 49, of Los Angeles both worked for KANG as brothel managers. ZHENHUA LIU, 51, of Seattle operated another brothel most recently located at 5403 Columbia Drive in Seattle. LIANCHEN NING, 47, of Seattle, worked as a transporter taking the women to and from the brothels and Sea-Tac airport.
Charges were also filed against RUJNG JIANG, 36, and her husband KESHING ZHU, 38, both of Seattle. The pair ran an escort service in Seattle that was a front for prostitution. The couple provided Asian prostitutes to customers who called from homes, apartments and hotels in the greater Seattle area. THONGYOT LIAMURAI, 39, of Seattle worked as a prostitute for both KANG and ZHU and was a close confident of KANG’s. BING WANG, age unknown, was arrested at LIU’s brothel this morning where he was the manager.
As detailed in the lengthy complaint, the 21-month investigation used confidential informants, court approved wiretaps, and GPS tracking to identify those involved with the sex trafficking ring. Information about the criminal activity first surfaced in April 2004 when the Eastside Narcotics Task Force raided the Apple Spa in Bellevue after determining it was a front for prostitution. Both KANG, JIANG, and ZHU had been involved in the operation of the Apple Spa. ZHU was deported to China as an illegal alien, but quickly returned illegally to the United States. KANG and JIANG failed to show up for deportation hearings. In December 2004, FBI agents in Portland learned KANG had resurfaced there and was operating a brothel. In the midst of the investigation in May 2005, KANG returned to Seattle and opened a brothel.
In various conversations with confidential sources or on wiretapped telephone calls, conspirators discussed how the Asian women had been smuggled into the United States. KANG told one confidential informant that women were being smuggled into the U.S. in shipping containers, paying fees to smugglers of as much as $50,000. The investigation determined that some of the women were smuggled into the U.S. by illegally crossing the border from Canada. The women had to pay off their debts to the smugglers by working in brothels in cities across the country. One of the conspirators was recorded in a phone conversation saying she had lost a lot of money when smuggled women fled without working off their debt. Law enforcement was able to track tens of thousands of dollars going from the U.S. to possible smuggling “agents” in China who arrange for the women to be smuggled into the country.
The conspirators attempted to avoid law enforcement scrutiny by using code words when talking on the phone. They referred to the women as ethnic foods, makes of cars or as ships. The investigation determined women working in the brothels were citizens of China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Laos.
The investigation is continuing into the brothel network in other U.S. cities.
A complaint contains allegations that have not yet been proven at trial beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted the conspirators face up to 20 years in prison.
The case was investigated by the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Seattle Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Greenberg.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.