Tuesday, November 01, 2005

U.S. arrests Chinese and Taiwan women for smuggling and prostitution in California

October 31, 2005 12:00am
Source: China Post

U.S. state and federal agents yesterday arrested five Chinese nationals in the South Bay for their alleged involvement in running an elaborate smuggling and prostitution ring, according to reports by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The investigators stated that the five suspects operated from 10 massage parlors located in the cities of San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and San Mateo. The prostitutes, including Taiwanese, Chinese, and Korean nationals, were rotated every ten days to avoid detection, said the police.

After spending a year working undercover, the agents raided the brothels and brought 31 prostitutes into safe houses, where they will be questioned. The interrogation would center on whether they were coerced, forced, or defrauded into serving as sex slaves, said investigators.

Of the women held, 21 are believed to be from Taiwan, four from Korea, and three from China.

If they prove to be victims of human trafficking, the women will be given a three-year visa plus monthly benefits, housing, and job assistance if they testify against their abusers. Those who entered the business on their own free will would be deported back to their countries.

Chuck DeMore, special-agent-in charge with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said investigators believe that "most of the women knew what they were coming to the U.S. for."

However, DeMore admitted that the situation needs to be handled delicately, since the suspects might have coached them or threatened them into making false testimonials.

U.S. Attorney General of San Francisco Kevin Ryan indicated that the investigation began after tips from neighbors alerted the local police last year. He explained that the five suspects were involved in alien harboring, meaning that they had conspired to conceal, harbor, and shield illegal aliens for the purpose of financial gain.

The police seized US$170,000 in cash and US$206,000 in the suspects' bank accounts (close to NT$12 million). Investigators announced that they have plans to go after any assets purchased with the illegal funds.

Each of the five suspects faces up to 10 years in prison and up to US$250,000.

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