Williamsburg Business Owner Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering and Conspiracy Involving Labor Trafficking
NORFOLK, Va. – A Norfolk woman pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to engage in money laundering. Two Norfolk defendants pleaded guilty last week to the same charges.
According to court documents, Si Liu, 36, and her codefendants, Yang Gao, 33, and Ye Wang, 32, conspired to move and conceal proceeds obtained through prostitution. During the conspiracy, Gao, Wang and Liu worked as operators or managers of illicit, unregistered massage parlors located in Virginia Beach and Williamsburg, which derived revenues from the prostitution of female employees for money. Women were recruited online to work for the defendants. Female employees within the massage parlors performed sex acts for customers in exchange for cash payments.
Gao managed the day-to-day operations of the parlors, including collecting money obtained via commercial sex. Gao also provided transportation to women engaged in commercial sex and maintained the facilities, unlicensed massage parlors, utilized for commercial sex. Wang assisted Gao in the operation of the illicit commercial sex business. Liu helped facilitate the exploitation of women engaged in commercial sex, collected proceeds from the illegal activity, managed the web-based advertising of the illicit massage parlors, and encouraged women to perform sex acts by providing condoms and offering financial incentives.
Gao, Wang, and Liu split the prostitution proceeds with the women engaged in prostitution. Gao, Wang and Liu traveled to the massage parlors located in Virginia Beach and Williamsburg to collect prostitution proceeds, and then deposited a percentage of profits into various bank accounts. Money was then transferred to other members of the larger enterprise through cash deliveries and via mobile banking.
Pursuant to the plea agreements the defendants agreed to forfeit four vehicles, over $130,000 in US Currency, numerous items of jewelry, a gold bar; as well as three personal residences.
Gao and Wang previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering. Gao and Wang are scheduled to be sentenced on August 4. Liu is scheduled to be sentenced on August 11. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Derek W. Gordon, Acting Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C.; Paul Neudigate, Chief of Virginia Beach Police; and Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of Virginia State Police, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen accepted the plea.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Megan Montoya and Matthew Heck are prosecuting the case.
This case was investigated by the Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force, a collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as nongovernmental organizations, working together to combat human trafficking in the Hampton Roads, Virginia region.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:22-cr-108.