HALTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING
31 Arrests in Major Prostitution Ring
anti-trafficking poster in Korean is part of a Department of Health
and Human Services campaign against human trafficking. Korean women
were victimized in the prostitution network shut down this week..
A 15-month investigation
of a massive prostitution network based in
New York and stretching from Rhode Island
to Virginia culminated in the arrests Tuesday
of 31 defendants in seven states and the District
of Columbia, the FBI announced with officials
from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement and the New York City Police Department.
The joint investigation
uncovered an elaborate network of brothel owners, recruiters, and prostitutes—Korean émigrés
smuggled into the U.S. and then into brothels. Investigators also found a
network of money remitters, who transferred some prostitution proceeds overseas,
and drivers, who delivered women between brothels—sometimes at great
distances, such as two occasions last February when women were ferried from
New York City to a prostitution business in D.C.
is not a victimless crime,” Andrew Arena, special agent in charge of
the criminal division of our New York City office, said during an August
16 press conference in New York. “The FBI is part of the apparatus
in place to protect people, sometimes even from their own poor choices.”
Arena said the investigation
began in May 2005 after an undercover probe of a prostitution business run
by a Korean husband and wife in Queens, New York. Through court-authorized
monitoring of the couple’s telephone conversations, investigators saw
the reach of the conspiracy—recruiters in the U.S. and Korea were helping
women get into the U.S., usually illegally; drivers met them at the airport
or the border and then delivered them to brothels in New York, Rhode Island,
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, D.C., and Virginia.
A report by the Department
of State earlier this year estimated that up to 2 million people are trafficked
worldwide every year, with an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 in the U.S. Investigating
human trafficking and other civil rights violations is one of the FBI’s
top priorities. In many cases, prostitutes are forced into servitude by their
recruiters to pay back the cost of passage out of their countries.
In this case, recruiters
in Korea and the U.S. identified Korean women who wanted to come to the U.S.,
typically to make money to support their families. Recruiters arranged transportation,
and in some cases provided the women with false passports and visas. Once
in the U.S. and saddled with a large debt (usually in the tens of thousands
of dollars), the women were transported to brothels—some that fronted
as legitimate spas and massage parlors—where brothel owners or managers
often confiscated their IDs and passports, making escape difficult.
“This is a reminder
that large-scale human trafficking occurs every day, right in our own cities
and neighborhoods,” said Michael J. Garcia, U.S. Attorney for the Southern
District of New York.
The defendants, charged
in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York, face up to five years
in prison for conspiracy charges and up to 10 years in prison for transporting
women across state lines for prostitution.
release | Human
Trafficking webpage | Human
Trafficking Intelligence Report