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An indictment was unsealed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine charging Shou Chao Li, 37, and Derong Miao, 37, both of Concord, New Hampshire, with one count of conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation and travel for prostitution, two counts of sex trafficking by fraud and coercion, and five counts of interstate transportation for prostitution. Li was also charged with possessing a victim’s passport as part of the sex trafficking scheme. The indictment was announced by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank of the District of Maine.
According to the indictment, defendants Li and Miao operated an interstate prostitution and sex trafficking enterprise between July 2016 and at least February 2018. The defendants targeted Chinese women and recruited them to travel to Maine, where the defendants caused them to engage in prostitution, controlled their movements, and isolated them. The defendants rented residences and hotel rooms in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire for purposes of prostitution, and they employed others outside of Maine to advertise the women on Backpage.com and to communicate with prostitution customers.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Li faces up to five years on the passport charge. Both defendants face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, between 15 years’ imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life on the sex trafficking charges, and up to 10 years on the interstate transportation for prostitution charges. Both also face fines up to $250,000 and mandatory restitution.
The District of Maine is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam). ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.
The case is being investigated by the Portland and South Portland, Maine and the Manchester, Portsmouth, and Concord, New Hampshire Police Departments; the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office; the FBI; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and Wage and Hour Division. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Darcie N. McElwee with assistance from the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.