Six people who operated a web of apartments in four states used as brothels were indicted last week for conspiracy to transport individuals for prostitution, conspiracy to use a communications facility to promote prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
The indictment was returned following an undercover investigation involving the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Kirkland Police Department, the Bellevue Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The conspirators advertised Asian women for “massage services” on backpage.com, and leased apartments in Bellevue and Kirkland, Scottsdale, Arizona, Chicago, Illinois, and Falls Church/Tysons Corner, Virginia.
“These defendants exploited vulnerable women immigrants to enrich themselves,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “We will work with our partners to stop this exploitation. I commend the member of our community who alerted law enforcement. I also applaud the good work of the King County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bellevue and Kirkland police departments for their work with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations on this case.”
According to the indictment and other records filed in the case, law enforcement began investigating reports of apparent prostitution activity at a Kirkland apartment complex. The investigation revealed that six people were working together, running a prostitution business utilizing apartments they rented in four different states, and ads placed on backpage.com.
Many of the women who provided sexual services were in the U.S. illegally, having overstayed their visas. The women owed debts of as much as $60,000 to the leader of the prostitution ring, for providing them with the employment opportunities in the United States.
“This case is more than prostitution, money laundering and conspiracy. It is about human trafficking,” said King County Sheriff John Urquhart. “The Sheriff’s Office is committed to fighting human trafficking and holding responsible those who engage in this despicable activity.”