Six people from the United States, Canada and China were charged Tuesday for their roles in illegal brothel operations targeting Asian women, according to the Department of Justice.
Yan Wang, 33, of Temecula, two others from Oregon, one man from Canada and another from China were all charged with conspiracy and use of interstate facilities to promote, manage, establish, carry on or facilitate a racketeering enterprise, the DOJ said.
A sixth person from Portland was charged with using interstate facilities to promote, manage, establish, carry on or facilitate a racketeering enterprise.
The group was arrested in a nationwide sting operation targeting Asian brothels in the United States, according to a news release.
The brothels were located at several locations in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The enterprise recruited women, primarily from China, to travel to the U.S. to work as prostitutes, or engage in other sex trafficking activities, according to the indictments.
“Vulnerable women looking for a new life in the U.S. instead find traffickers who cash in on their cultural isolation by profiting from the sale of sex services,” FBI Special Agent Renn Cannon said. “In many cases, these women lack the language skills and understanding of American civil rights to ask for help or assistance from law enforcement.”
In each city where a brothel was operating, there would be a “boss” overseeing and managing the brothel, the DOJ said.
Requests for specific women came in through websites, texts, emails or through WeChat, a Chinese messaging service. A dispatcher would then receive the requests and set up “dates” with the women, according to the news release.
There were about 500 web domains being used by the organization. The domains were seized by the FBI.
All the so-called-dates were documented in a database that had logged more than 30,0000 customers, along with their contact information and details from their encounters with the women, the DOJ said.
“Trafficking adults for sex can at times be overlooked by our society because some believe the adult victims have a choice. This notion is false,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, Billy J. Williams said. “These victims are powerless and often thousands of miles away from their home, native language and personal connections who might help them escape.”
In the United States, 10,615 sex trafficking victims were identified in 2017 alone, according to a nationwide report from non-profit group, Polaris.
The national human trafficking hotline received 14,117 calls in 2018, according to the website.
The FBI in Portland investigated this case with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations agents in Nebraska. Portland Police Bureau, Beaverton Police Department, Tigard Police Department and Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office also participated in the sting operation. The Toronto Police Service provided assistance.
Anyone with information on this investigation or who would like to report a federal crime may contact the nearest FBI office or submit information online at tips.fbi.gov.