SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A preliminary hearing began in San Francisco on Wednesday for a husband and wife accused of running a brothel in the Sunset District.
Police said the two Chinese nationals, Jin Shi and Linjun Wang, both 31, were running a brothel on Noriega Street, using young women recruited in want ads. They were arrested on June 20 following a months-long police investigation and a search of their home.
The couple pleaded not guilty on June 25 to two counts of pimping and pandering.
During Wednesday’s hearing, San Francisco police Sgt. Kevin Healy, who conducted surveillance outside the home nearly a dozen times during the three months prior to the couple’s arrest, was called to the stand as a witness. Healy said he spoke with the landlord at the beginning of the investigation. He said the landlord had just started renting the residence to the couple and was worried that illegal activities were occurring inside.
Healy also testified that he saw males of different Asian backgrounds going into the home and staying consistently between 20 and 40 minutes. During the execution of the warrant, Healy told the court he entered the home and spoke with several people inside with the aid of interpreters. Healy said a man inside the home told him that on a previous day, he had paid $120 in exchange for a “handjob” from a woman in the residence. The man said he had paid the money directly to a woman and didn’t know if the funds were being split with the defendants.
During the search, the sergeant also spoke with two women in separate bedrooms in the three-bedroom house. Healy said one of the women was wearing black lingerie and the other was wearing a silk nightgown. The woman in black lingerie was given a towel to cover herself up with and when interviewed, she told authorities she was from Hong Kong and had arrived in the U.S. five days earlier. She told Healy that she had performed sex for money, but insisted it was voluntary and that she was not forced into it.
The woman in the silk nightgown said she had arrived from New York two days prior and wanted to go back. Healy testified both females were offered assistance from police but refused.
Shi’s attorney said Shi had been previously employed at a restaurant in San Francisco and that he has no criminal record. Wang also doesn’t have a criminal record, her attorney said. Police have seized both defendants’ passports and California IDs. Wang’s attorney previously said Wang has a 5-year-old child who does not live in the U.S. and that Wang has the equivalency of a high school education outside of China.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said this is a growing concern in the western part of the city, with three brothels busted in the past few months, including sisters accused of running two brothels in the Richmond District.
“We have always tried to deal with these cases. They are not always easy,” Gascon said. “They are sort of under the surface. But it is a problem.”
Gascon said neither case appears to involve human trafficking, but the young women were still victimized.
“Often they’re being coerced into the services, sometimes even when they’re volunteering. They’re not understanding all the implications of what they’re doing,” he said.
The district attorney is not prosecuting the young women, instead focusing on the husband and wife who ran the business.
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