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.
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