Federal and State Law Enforcement Agencies Raid 14 Alleged Brothels and Residences Tied to Conspiracy
SAN JOSE – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – Federal and state law enforcement investigators yesterday arrested five defendants and searched 14 alleged brothels and residences as part of “Operation Bad Neighbor.”
As detailed in a federal criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, these arrests are the result of a year-long undercover investigation into allegations of alien harboring and possible human trafficking in South Bay neighborhoods. All five defendants are Chinese nationals and are charged by complaint with conspiring to conceal, harbor, and shield from detection illegal aliens for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I) and (a)(iii). The five defendants are:
Xiao Fend Shen, a.k.a. “James,” 34, of San Jose; Immigration Status: Student Visa Overstay
Yan Song, a.k.a. “Katie” and “Cathy,” 42, of San Jose; Immigration Status: Lawful Permanent Resident (conditional)
Ming Sun, 31, of San Jose; Immigration Status: Student Visa Overstay
Jia Jing Chu, a.k.a. “Peter,” 34, of San Jose; Immigration Status: Stay of Deportation
Ai-Ching Chang, a.k.a. “Tina,” 45, of Sunnyvale; Immigration Status: Lawful Permanent Resident (conditional)
According to the complaint, all five defendants operated brothels that masqueraded as unlicensed, underground massage houses in South Bay residential neighborhoods. The brothels were located in the cities of San Jose, San Mateo, and Santa Clara. The defendants allegedly harbored illegal alien women from Asia at the houses of prostitution. In order to conceal their illicit businesses from law enforcement detection, the defendants allegedly bribed undercover officers, who posed as crooked police officers, for “protection” of the brothel sites. The undercover investigation was initiated by the San Mateo Police Department in the fall of 2004, when one of the defendants, Shen, allegedly sought to bribe a police officer for the dismissal of local pimping and pandering charges against co-defendant Song.
Thirty-one women found at the brothel locations are being interviewed as potential material witnesses in connection with the investigation. The women are being provided with appropriate medical care and victim-witness assistance while in custody. Investigators are interviewing the women in order to determine whether any of the women were forced to engage in prostitution or were the victims of human trafficking. As alleged in the complaint, during the course of this investigation, law enforcement officers received anonymous tips suggesting that some of the women may have been the victims of sex trafficking. According to one anonymous complaint made by a woman claiming to have worked for defendant Song, Song offered women assistance in fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship in exchange for money. The anonymous complaint alleged that the women would work off their debts by engaging in prostitution and that Song threatened to withhold the women’s immigration papers until their debts were re-payed.
These charges are the result of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the San Jose Police Department, and the San Mateo Police Department.
U.S. Attorney Kevin V. Ryan stated, “Operation Bad Neighbor targeted an alleged scheme of alien harboring tied to brothels posing as massage parlors. The alleged crimes involved in this case degrades the women involved, has a detrimental impact on the quality of life in our neighborhoods and oftentimes can bring other criminal activity into an area. I am proud of the outstanding cooperation by the San Jose and San Mateo Police Departments, IRS, and ICE.”
According to IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Roger L. Wirth ” This case is about an organized criminal enterprise motivated by money and greed, involved in the ugly business of exploitation of women and immigrants. IRS CI is proud to be a part of this joint investigative effort with ICE and San Jose and San Mateo Police Departments and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and to contribute our financial investigative skills toward eliminating such enterprises from our neighborhoods and cities.”
IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Roger Wirth stated, “This case is about an alleged organized criminal enterprise motivated by money and greed, involved in the ugly business of exploitation of women and immigrants. IRS-CI is proud to be a part of this joint investigative effort with ICE, the San Jose and San Mateo Police Departments, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and to contribute our financial investigative skills toward eliminating such enterprises from our neighborhoods and cities.”
“Unfortunately, people who are lured to this country for illicit purposes are often treated like a commodity, making them an easy target for all kinds of exploitation,” said Charles DeMore, special agent-in-charge of ICE investigations in San Francisco. “ICE is committed to using its immigration authorities to attack and dismantle criminal enterprises that prey on the vulnerable, threatening the welfare of not only the victims, but of entire communities.”
Captain Mike Callagy of the San Mateo Police Department said, “The San Mateo Police Department is committed to working with all local and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure that these types of brothels do not exist in our neighborhoods.”
The maximum statutory penalty for conspiracy to harbor aliens, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I) and (a)(iii), is 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
A complaint contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, these defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Edward Torpoco is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release and related court filings may be found on the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s website at www.usdoj.gov/usao/can.
Electronic court filings and further procedural and docket information are available at https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/ (click on the link for “to retrieve documents from the court”).
Judges’ calendars with schedules for upcoming court hearings can be viewed on the court’s website at www.cand.uscourts.gov.
All press inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office should be directed to Luke Macaulay at (415) 436-6757 or by email at [email protected]