Seattle human trafficking ring finally gets uncovered

On Feb. 1, six people were sentenced in the U.S. District Court in Seattle due to involvement in an organized crime ring responsible for human trafficking and prostitution. The group was responsible for disingenuously recruiting women from Asia, and most predominantly China, to Washington State.
Victims testified to being recruited to perform massage work. According to Seattle PI, some understood that prostitution was the true intention, while others believed they would be performing legitimate massage.
The people arrested included 28-year-old Fang Wang, former prostitute and apparent leader of the group, 27-year old Yongguan Wu of Seattle, 44-year old Yunzhong Chen of Seattle, 32-year old Yaoan He of Seattle, 22-year old Zhaofeng Zhang of Seattle and 59-year old Steven Thompson of Renton.
On May 4, 2017, all had initially been charged with conspiracy to promote prostitution via a communication facility, according to Skagit Breaking. Conspiracy is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Defendants in the case played various roles in keeping the crime ring running. These roles included renting apartments, transporting sex workers to various locations, purchasing supplies, collecting money from sex workers and placing internet ads. Zhang even continued to conduct these activities with ringleader Wang after being contacted by law enforcement.
According to the Bellevue Reporter, Yongguan Wu and Steven Thompson were sentenced to eight months in prison, Yunzhong Chen and Yaoan He were sentenced to one year in prison, Zhaofeng Zhang was sentenced to 21 months in prison, and Fang Wang was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Few if any of the victims had connections in Seattle. Assistant U.S. Attorney Catherine Crisham reported, “Many of the women stated that they felt isolated and vulnerable, living in unfamiliar apartment complexes where they did not know anyone, did not speak the language, and were reliant upon Wang and her co-conspirators for food and transportation.”
Crisham continued, “Although some of the women told law enforcement that they knew when they agreed to work for Wang that they would be engaging in prostitution, many others stated that the experience had been emotionally traumatic for them, and that they had only worked as prostitutes because they felt that they had no other options for making money.”
Those who partook in the investigation include the FBI, the Bellevue Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Redmond Police Department, the Renton Police Department, the Seattle Police Department, the Tukwila Police Department and Homeland Security Investigation.
“The operation and service of search warrants involved assistance from police departments in Everett, Federal Way, Kennewick, Kent, Kirkland, Lacey, Puyallup, Richland, Spokane and Wenatchee and assistance from the Snohomish County and Spokane County Sheriff’s Offices,” wrote the Bellevue Reporter.
Investigators were able to link prostitution locations by analyzing Backpage.com, where several ads for the prostitution ring were placed. Law enforcement agencies also “followed up on citizen complaints about apartments being used as prostitution locations and confirmed that the organization was in fact conducting prostitution at those locations,” according to Skagit Breaking.
Human trafficking and organized crime are major issues even today. In a statement, Bellevue Police Chief Mylett said, “The Bellevue Police Department will be relentless in its effort to rid our community of those who would take advantage of others for personal profit. I commend the hard work of our investigators and Federal partners in this joint effort.”

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