Third Defendant Pleads Guilty In Sex Trafficking Ring
CONTACT: Barbara Burns
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BUFFALO, N.Y.-U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Feng Yang Chen, 43, of Flushing, NY, pleaded guilty to with conspiracy to violate the Mann Act and the Travel Act related to the operation of an interstate prostitution business and using the internet to promote prostitution before U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth R. Moellering, who is handling the case, stated that between March 2011 and March 2016, Chen operated a multi-state prostitution organization. The defendant posted advertisements on Backpage.com and operated a call center from her home in Flushing, Queens that scheduled meetings between prostitutes and their clients. This led to encounters with prostitutes in multiple states including New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas. Some of the commercial sex acts took place in Tonawanda, NY and Henrietta, NY.
The defendant, who worked with co-defendants Chengqi Li and LiangLiang Guo, victimized at least 12 individuals who traveled state to state to engage in prostitution in various hotels. Some of the victims were recruited from China. Chen used threats of violence and deportation against the victims and their families to force participation. The prostitution organization posted more than 6,000 advertisements and generated more than $2,000,000 annually in proceeds.
The Government is seeking the forfeiture of approximately $450,000 in proceeds from the illegal prostitution activities; proceeds from the sale of a property located in Flushing, NY; a 2012 Porsche Cayenne; as well as multiple cellular telephones, computers, and iPads utilized during the prostitution conspiracy.
Defendants Li and Guo were previously convicted and are awaiting sentencing.
"In this disturbing case, the defendant was a member of a trafficking and prostitution organization that made millions of dollars each year preying upon at least a dozen young women,” said U.S. Attorney Kennedy. “The defendant, together with her codefendants, used threats of violence against these women, together with threats of deportation—both against the women and their families—to force them to work as prostitutes across the United States. The depravity involved in such exploitation is remarkable."
“Human trafficking is a horrific crime where the most vulnerable of our society are preyed upon and exploited,” said Kevin Kelly, Special Agent-in-Charge of HSI Buffalo. “HSI Special Agents and our partners have implemented proven strategies to target these criminal organizations involved in order to protect our communities and arrest those who prey on others.”
The plea is the result of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Kelly; the Tonawanda Police Department, under the direction of Chief Jerome C. Uschold III; the New York Police Department, under the direction of Chief James P. O’Neill; the South Portland, Maine Police Department, under the direction of Chief Edward Googins; and the Fairview Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Jason C. Loper.
Chen is scheduled to be sentenced on August 1, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. before Judge Vilardo.