EMERYVILLE (CBS SF)_ Four suspects have been arrested for allegedly operating a sex trafficking ring out of a massage parlor in Emeryville, California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced on Friday.
Harris said two of the suspects, Acucare Oriental Massage owners Jimmy Gong Lee and Tom Loi, also are accused of making bribes to an Emeryville police captain, who was working undercover by posing as a corrupt officer, in an attempt to further their illegal business operations.
Harris said the arrests are the result of a joint investigation by her office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security unit, the Emeryville Police Department, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices for the Northern and Eastern districts of California.
Harris said Lee, 55, Loi, 59, Wei Kuang, 56, and Rong Liu, 37, face a total of 30 felony state charges for their roles in the operation. She said the charges against them include conspiracy, pimping, pandering, bribery and tax fraud.
Lee and Loi are being held at the San Francisco County Jail and Kuang and Liu are being held at the Alameda County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail each. All four suspects will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office but Lee and Loi are also facing federal charges.
Harris said the joint investigation revealed that Acucare Oriental Massage, which was located at 3911 Adeline St. in Emeryville but closed earlier this year, was operating as a brothel, with young Asian females that were used for commercial sex being replaced every two weeks.
She said Lee and Liu owned the business and Kuang worked at the front desk, collected money, and provided condoms.
A series of undercover operations revealed that men who were willing to pay money for sex would be buzzed in to enter the business, pay approximately $60 to Kuang and then select a “masseuse” from a group of women, Harris said. The women would then negotiate further fees for sexual services, a portion of which was given back to Kuang, according to Harris.
When Emeryville authorities began questioning the legitimacy of the business, Lee gave Loi thousands of dollars to pay off an Emeryville police captain who was working undercover as a corrupt police officer, Harris said.
In a series of recorded meetings between March 2013 and May 2014, Loi gave the captain a total of $24,000 in bribes, about $2,000 a month, not to shut down Acucare, according to Harris.
On June 5, agents with the California Department of Justice and Homeland Security executed search warrants at the massage parlor as well as Lee’s residence in San Francisco, Harris said.
In addition to shutting down Acucare, agents recovered $69,000 in cash and evidence showing that Lee, Liu and Kuang were operating a brothel, according to Harris.
The Attorney General said she has made the fight against human trafficking a priority for her department, saying that California is a top destination for trafficking because it’s a populous border state with a significant immigrant population.
Harris said in a statement, “Human trafficking is one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises and it is having a devastating impact right here in our own backyard.”
She said, “Each year, thousands of women and children of all ages and backgrounds are forced into labor and prostitution.”
Tatum King, the acting special agent in charge of the Homeland Security office in San Francisco said, “Illegal ventures like this degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods as well as the women involved.”
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