Five people in Washington are accused of running a multi-state prostitution ring using illegal Asian immigrants.
Investigators said the suspects advertised Asian women for "massage services" on a site called backpage.com, while leasing apartments in Bellevue and Kirkland, WA.
U.S. Attorney's Office representatives said apartments as part of the prostitution operation were also leased in Chicago, Scottsdale, AZ and Falls Church, VA.
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, five living in Washington and one in Nevada, were working together running a prostitution business.
Many of the women who provided sexual services were in the U.S. illegally, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office, having overstayed their visas. The women owed debts of as much as $60,000 to the leader of the prostitution ring, investigators said, for providing them with the employment opportunities in the U.S.
Most of the women were recruited in Thailand and came to the U.S. knowing they would be sex workers to pay off their debt.
Investigators said Unruean Aboulafia, 34, of Bellevue, is the leader of the scheme. She is accused of being in the U.S. illegally and recruiting women from Thailand, who would then be put into prostitution to pay their smuggling debt.
Also facing charges in this case are Thanyathorn Mohr, 35, a Thai national legally living in the U.S. in Bellevue; Jeff Chu, 48, a U.S. citizen living in Bellevue; Xinping Zhang, 39, a Chinese national legally in the U.S. and Chu's ex-wife; Edward Flanigan, 57, of Federal Way; and Steven Aboulafia, 59, a U.S. citizen in Henderson, NV and the ex-husband of the alleged ring leader.
The face charges including conspiracy to transport individuals for prostitution, conspiracy to use a communications facility to promote prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
Copyright 2013 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, June 18 2013 4:56 PM EDT2013-06-18 20:56:44 GMT
A former Sherwood High School teacher is facing charges of sex abuse, the alleged victims three students. Washington County deputies say Denise Keesee turned herself into detectives today after monthsMore >
A former Sherwood High School teacher is facing charges of sex abuse, and police say the alleged victims are two former students.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 9:47 AM EDT2013-06-18 13:47:39 GMT
A group of homeowners in Clackamas County is banding together to send crooks a strong message about an increase in crime in their neighborhood. They're starting to post signs that read, "Glock block. WeMore >
Homeowners in the Milwaukie area are posting signs in their neighborhood that say: "Glock block. We don't call 9-1-1."More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 9:23 AM EDT2013-06-18 13:23:30 GMT
A 5-year-old girl set up a lemonade stand across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound, and now the group is targeting her. Jayden Sink raised nearly $200 on Friday while she sold lemonadeMore >
A 5-year-old girl set up a lemonade stand across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound, and now the group is targeting her.More >
A driver is now facing charges for the death of a man dribbling a soccer ball along the West Coast with a mission of making it to the World Cup. Richard Swanson, 42, of Seattle, was hit from behind byMore >
A driver is now facing charges for the death of a man dribbling a soccer ball along the West Coast with a mission of making it to the World Cup.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 11:27 AM EDT2013-06-18 15:27:20 GMT
A 3-year-old girl was taken by Life Flight to the trauma center after falling into a crawlspace and hitting her head. Emergency crews said it happened just before 6 p.m. Monday on Meyers Road in OregonMore >
A 3-year-old girl was taken by Life Flight to the trauma center after falling into a crawlspace and hitting her head.More >
Monday, June 17 2013 9:59 PM EDT2013-06-18 01:59:19 GMT
LYNCHBURG, VA (RNN) – Kimberly Burke is used to capturing emotion. As a wedding photographer, she has an eye for tender moments, like the photo she snapped of a Marine and his bride praying that has goneMore >
A quiet moment captured before a couple wed has brought collective "awws" by millions on the internet.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 12:58 PM EDT2013-06-18 16:58:23 GMT
Clackamas and Gladstone firefighters are responding to High Rocks Park in the Gladstone area to search for a missing person in the Clackamas River.Further details weren't immediately available, but FOXMore >
Construction workers called 911 after spotting a man struggling in the water as he was swept down river near High Rocks Park.More >
Monday, June 17 2013 3:19 PM EDT2013-06-17 19:19:36 GMT
A disgruntled man is accused of filing a false police report about a rape threat and possible hostage situation that shut down a Gresham neighborhood early Monday morning. Police said the report cameMore >
A disgruntled man is accused of filing a false police report about a rape threat and possible hostage situation that shut down a Gresham neighborhood early Monday morning.More >
Tuesday, June 18 2013 11:55 AM EDT2013-06-18 15:55:21 GMT
A former coach at Catlin Gabel school turned himself in on charges of luring a minor Monday morning. Washington County deputies said Deonte Huff was originally arrested back in May at his apartment onMore >
A former coach at Catlin Gabel school turned himself in on charges of luring a minor Monday morning.More >