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Updated 14:40 EDT - 01 Apr 2009

01 July 2005

U.S. Agents Crack West Coast Human Smuggling, Trafficking Ring

Forced prostitution alleged In San Francisco, Los Angeles arrests

Federal authorities in California July 1 announced arrests in a sophisticated human smuggling scheme suspected of bringing hundreds of South Korean women to the United States to work as prostitutes.

Approximately 1,000 federal and state law enforcement officers were involved in the sweeps in Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). So far, 45 arrests have been made in the two cities, and $3 million in illicit proceeds have been seized.

Operation Gilded Cage is a nine-month investigation of sex trafficking, harboring of illegal aliens, conspiracy to transport female Korean nationals across state lines with intent to engage in prostitution, and money laundering by individuals involved in the massage-parlor industry.

A criminal gang known as the Jung Organization is the target of the investigation, according to a July 1 U.S. attorney’s press statement issued in Los Angeles. Authorities allege that the Jung group operated brothels behind businesses that purported to be massage parlors, acupuncture clinics and the like. Behind those fronts, the group was forcing young women into prostitution.

The ICE spokesman says 150 illegal aliens have been detained in the case and are being interviewed to ascertain whether they are victims of human trafficking.

The texts of two press releases issued in the case follow:

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U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement July 1, 2005

29 CHARGED IN CONNECTION WITH ALIEN HARBORING CONSPIRACY

2 Individuals Charged in Connection with Sex Trafficking Korean Women Were Allegedly Brought into the U.S. Illegally Through Canada

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Attorney's Office announced that 27 people were arrested last night (3 on probable cause) and approximately 50 brothels, residences and businesses were searched in connection with Operation Gilded Cage. Operation Gilded Cage is a federal investigation of alleged sex trafficking, harboring of Illegal aliens, conspiracy to transport female Korean nationals across state lines with intent to engage in prostitution, and money laundering by individuals involved in the massage parlor industry. During the course of the law enforcement action last night, approximately $2 million was seized at the search locations. Approximately 100 women are currently at an undisclosed and non-detention location where they are receiving healthcare and other services.

Last night's enforcement actions were the result of a joint investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California, the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), San Francisco Police Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.

In an indictment returned on June 23, 2005, and unsealed today, a federal grand jury indicted 29 people on charges including: conspiracy to harbor aliens, sex trafficking, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to transport female Korean nationals across state lines with intent to engage in prostitution, and conspiracy to use a facility (telephone) in interstate commerce with the intent to promote a prostitution enterprise. A chart listing all of the defendants and the charges against them is attached below.

U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan stated, "This investigation is aimed at stopping the horrific, demeaning, and oftentimes brutal practice of smuggling and trafficking of human brings into the U.S. for illicit purposes. In Operation Guilded Cage, we have actively sought to dismantle a wide-ranging operation with connections in the U.S., Korea, and Canada by targeting not only the alleged smuggling and trafficking of women, but also the related financial activities of the illicit operation."

Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Bradley J. Schlozman said, "Human trafficking is a repugnant and morally reprehensible crime, which the Department of Justice is deeply committed to eradicating. That this kind of conduct occurs in the 21st Century -- in the United States no less -- is simply unconscionable."

"Working in partnership here in San Francisco, approximately 400 federal, state, and local law enforcement officials carried out a series of enforcement actions last night to dismantle an alleged widespread human smuggling, human trafficking and prostitution ring," said John Torres, Deputy Assistant Director of the Smuggling and Public Safety Investigations for ICE. "The individuals charged in connection with these alleged schemes were engaged in the types of criminal activity that are frequently associated with violence and characterized by utter disregard for human life."

Acting Special Agent in Charge Arthur Balizan said, "This cooperative enforcement action is a testament to the FBI's commitment in investigating sophisticated human trafficking cases. These alleged illicit activities erode our social fabric and feed the coffers of many criminal enterprises."

San Francisco Police Department Deputy Chief of Investigations Morris Tabak stated, "The San Francisco Police Department is proud to have joined forces with U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan, the FBI, and the rest of our federal partners to combat the scourge of human trafficking, also known as modern slavery. There is no place in the world for human trafficking, especially here in San Francisco."

According to Roger Wirth, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation: "We are proud to be a part of this joint law enforcement effort working to dismantle criminal organizations preying on individuals for profit. It is a priority of IRS Criminal Investigation to eradicate criminal organizations by also pursuing money laundering charges and eliminating the profits generated by illicit activities."

Diplomatic Security Service Special Agent in Charge Thomas Depenbrock said, "The U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service is an eager ally in the fight to end human trafficking. When individuals attempt to compromise the visa process the DSS will undertake a worldwide effort, employing the full force of DSS agents in almost 285 diplomatic missions overseas to put an end visa fraud as a means of human trafficking."

Harboring Aliens and Sex Trafficking:

According to the indictment, around May 2004, defendant Wu Sang Nah, Sung Yong Kim, and others made arrangements to smuggle two female Korean nationals across the Canadian-United States border. According to the indictment, the two female Korean nationals were transported from Virginia to Los Angeles, and ultimately to Kings Massage, at 315 Jessie St., San Francisco.

Employees at Kings Massage allegedly paid defendant Sung Yong Kim a trafficking fee for the two female Korean nationals. According to the indictment, between May and August 2004, employees at Kings Massage directed the two female Korean nationals to work as prostitutes until their trafficking debts were paid in full. During that time period, co-conspirators allegedly collected and maintained control over the prostitution proceeds until their debts were paid in full.

Defendants Young Joon Yang and Sung Yong Kim are charged with two counts each of sex trafficking. The indictment charges that Yan and Kim used force, fraud or coercion to cause Jane Doe 1 and 2 to engage in a commercial sex act.

Yang's Taxi Service and YJY Travel and Tour:

Seven individuals are charged with conspiracy to transport female Korean nationals across state lines to engage in prostitution. The indictment alleges that Young Joon Yang owned and operated an underground taxi service named Yang's Taxi, for the purpose of transporting prostitutes to and from airports and brothels in San Francisco, California.

According to the indictment, Yang's Taxi would pick up or drop off Korean speaking females from the following locations: San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, Lee's Oriental Massage, Suk Hee Oriental Massage and Sauna, Lucky Spa, Palm Tree Massage, Empire Health Club, and Geneva Oriental Spa.

The indictment also charges that Young Joon Yang owned and operated YJY Travel and Tour, and used it to purchase airline tickets for interstate travel for prostitutes working at various brothels in San Francisco. Airline tickets to or from San Francisco, Oakland, Las Vegas, Dallas, New York, and Boston were allegedly purchased for Korean-speaking females in connection with this alleged conspiracy.

Conspiracy to Launder Money:

Four individuals are charged with conspiracy to engage in money laundering. According to the indictment, in order to conceal and disguise the proceeds of alien harboring and interstate transportation for prostitution, Young Joon Yang, Hang Joe Yoon, Myong Su Ahn, and Nam Young Lee used various individuals to transfer the proceeds of the unlawful activity from the United States to Korea.

Status:

Separate arrests were made in Los Angeles last night in connection with an alleged human smuggling scheme. Twenty-three individuals were charged by complaint with conspiracy. The complaint alleges three objects to the conspiracy; harboring illegal aliens for an immoral purpose (prostitution); harboring and transporting illegal aliens; and violating the Travel Act, a federal statute that prohibits moving people across state lines for illegal sexual purposes, such as prostitution. The Los Angeles and San Francisco cases are separate, however, the enforcement actions were coordinated.

The individuals arrested last night will make begin to make their initial appearance in federal court in San Francisco today at 1:00 PM before Magistrate Judge Vadas. The following individuals are wanted by authorities and upon learning of the charges should turn themselves into authorities:

· Wu Sang Nah, aka Kang

· Sung Yong Kim, aka Nam, aka Mr. Kim, age 39

· Myong Su Ahn, aka Paula Lee, age 50,

· Nam Young Lee, age 38, and

· Fred A. Frazier, 50 of Fairfield, California

The maximum statutory penalties are outline in the attached summary sheet. Please note, however, that any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. §3553.

An indictment contains only allegations against an individual and these defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Acknowledgments:

The prosecution is the result of a 9-month investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Axelrod and Department of Justice Civil Rights Trial Attorneys Andrew Kline and Evans Rice are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Kristina Pollak and Mae Chu.

This prosecution is the result of a joint investigation of the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), San Francisco Police Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service.

--ICE --

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was established in March 2003 as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is comprised of five integrated divisions that form a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.

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[U.S. Department of Justice] United States’ Attorney’s Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) Issued Friday, July 1, 2005

23 CHARGED FOR ROLES IN KOREAN HUMAN SMUGGLING SCHEME THAT BROUGHT PROSTITUTES INTO THE UNITED STATES

Women were allegedly smuggled to work at brothels in L.A. and Bay Area

LOS ANGELES - Federal and state authorities have arrested 18 persons during a series of overnight enforcement actions that targeted a sophisticated human smuggling scheme believed to have brought hundreds of South Korean women into the United States to work as prostitutes.

A criminal complaint filed in Los Angeles yesterday and unsealed this morning charges a total of 23 defendants with conspiracy. Five of the defendants are fugitives being sought by federal authorities. The complaint alleges three objects to the conspiracy: harboring illegal aliens for an immoral purpose (prostitution); harboring and transporting illegal aliens; and violating the Travel Act, a federal statute that prohibits moving people across state lines for illegal sexual purposes, such as prostitution.

In addition to the criminal arrests, federal agents took into custody 46 women who were working at brothels that were shut down last night. Agents are interviewing the women to learn more about the circumstances surrounding how they came here and how they were treated once they arrived.

The initial results of the investigation were announced at a news conference in Los Angeles by United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang; Marcy Forman, Director of the Office of Investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Michael Kochmanski, Special Agent-in-Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation Division; and Robert Osborne, Commander of the Detective Division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"This type of criminal organization exploits the hopes and dreams of immigrants," said United States Attorney Debra Wong Yang. "In this case, they exploited women, some of whom apparently suffered injuries as a result of their work. My office works very hard to eliminate these types of exploitation and to secure punishment for those who engage in them, seeking to profit at the expense of others."

The investigation focused on a criminal organization dubbed the Jung Organization that allegedly smuggled South Korean women into the United States and then provided the women to brothel operators. The brothels were concealed behind businesses that purported to be massage parlors and "out-call service" operations. The prostitutes were allegedly managed by an underground network of Korean "taxi" services operated by members and associates of the Jung Organization. The "taxi" services coordinated the prostitutes' daily schedules and worked hand-in-hand with the brothel operators.

The affidavit alleges that organization ringleaders Young Joon Jung and Ho Kyung Kim oversaw efforts to recruit prospective prostitutes in South Korea and then arranged for them to be brought to the United States. Some of the women were smuggled into the country across the Mexican and Canadian borders. Others traveled to the United States on fraudulently obtained visitors' visas. The women allegedly promised to pay up to $16,000 each to be smuggled into the country. Once they arrived, the women were expected to work as prostitutes, with a portion of their earnings going to repay their smuggling debts. As part of the scheme, some of the women were allegedly transported to Northern California, Colorado and Texas to work as prostitutes.

Marcy Forman, Director of the Office of Investigations for ICE, stated: "Last night, ICE special agents working in partnership with IRS investigators and local law enforcement dismantled one of the largest human smuggling and prostitution rings ever uncovered in Southern California. Not only are we targeting the people affiliated with these violent criminal networks, but we're going after the money that supports their criminal activities."

Michael Kochmanski, the Special Agent in Charge of the Los Angeles Field Office of IRS-Criminal Investigation Division stated: "The action yesterday shows the greater good that occurs when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together towards a common goal. Dismantling criminal organizations and halting the monetary gain from their illegal activities is a priority for IRS-Criminal Investigation."

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The defendants arrested on the criminal complaint are expected to make their initial appearances this afternoon in United States District Court in Los Angeles.

In conjunction with the arrests last night, federal agents executed search warrants at 28 locations across the greater Los Angeles area. The targeted sites included suspected brothels and so-called human smuggling "drop houses." Several local law enforcement agencies participated in last night's operation, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the Santa Monica Police Department, the Redondo Beach Police Department, and the Anaheim Police Department.

The brothels themselves were housed in a variety of businesses, including chiropractic offices, acupuncture clinics, spas and massage parlors. During last night's searches, investigators seized nearly $300,000 in cash and more than $650,000 in bank accounts. Investigators have located and expect to seize this afternoon another $800,000 located in bank accounts.

In addition to the criminal arrests and the prostitutes taken into custody, investigators took two men into custody on immigration violations. There were also four children found, who are in the custody of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, IRS-Criminal Investigation Division and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Authorities in San Francisco this morning announced a related case in which 29 people were indicted on charges of conspiracy to bring in and harbor aliens, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to transport female Korean nationals across state lines with intent to engage in prostitution, and conspiracy to use interstate communications by phone to engage in unlawful activity. Two defendants in San Francisco were charged with sex trafficking for knowingly using force, fraud or coercion to cause two women to engage in a commercial sex act. Two of the defendants named in the San Francisco case were taken into custody in Southern California.

CONTACT:

Assistant United States Attorney Todd T. Tristan (213) 894-2829

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