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Police, U.S. Attorney’s Office Take Action on Local Sex Trafficking

Hiding in Plain View: Sex trafficking and massage parlors in Northern Virginia.

This is the final part of a three-part series on sex trafficking and illegally operating massage parlors in Northern Virginia. Also see and .

 

Sex trafficking can be difficult to prosecute, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Peter Carr.

Legally speaking, sex trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion —which can be a difficult accusation to prove in court—or the person induced to perform such acts is under age 18. Thus, the task force has largely focused on cases involving juveniles who are sex trafficking or prostitution victims or using a law prohibiting interstate transportation for prostitution.

The Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, launched through the U.S Attorney's Office in 2004 and reinvigorated in 2010, has racked up eight convictions to date. Only one case specifically involved a massage parlor, but all cases involved exploitative prostitution, usually among illegal immigrants. The massage parlor was in Woodbridge.

In an Annandale case earlier this year, Taesan Won was charged with harboring and concealing illegal aliens for private financial gain. According to investigators, Won ran a “doumi” business called “Honey” in Annandale.

“Doumi” which means “helper” in Korean, and doumi women, usually South Koreans, generally provide companionship to male clients at place like karaoke clubs and bars. These women sometimes engage in prostitution with their male customers. At one point, investigators found, there were eight to nine doumi companies operating in Annandale alone.

Won, who lived on Gallows Road, specifically targeted Korean woman by placing Korean-language ads on online message boards and then housed the women – many of whom were in the country illegally – at homes in Fairfax and Annandale, including Annandale’s Lafayette Forest Community. Won was eventually sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.

In a third case, in December 2010, the owner and managers of a Korean room salon in Falls Church (Sang Bun Surh and four co-defendants) pleaded guilty to conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens for commercial advantage and private financial gain. According to prosecutors, the room salon and bar was alternately called “Tomato,” “Tomato Garden” or High Society.”

The club featured private rooms where provocatively dressed illegal Korean immigrants served and entertained customers. According to court papers, a confidential informant who had worked at the club told investigators that Tomato was “well known in the Korean community as a place were men could procure sexual services from Korean women.”

The informant said a woman known as Chung Madame managed the club’s affairs and took a 20 percent share of her employees’ income. Tomato management was often responsible or finding housing for the women. Court papers also state that a female club manager, who lived in Annandale, would confiscate employees’ identification documents, likely to coerce labor or prevent employees from leaving.

At least 25 illegal immigrants worked at Tomato, and many lived in Annandale. The case resulted in six guilty pleas, and two of the main defendants were sentenced to 30 months and 16 months in prison, respectively.

In the Woodbridge-based massage parlor case, a court convicted Young Jun Park of illegally transporting a woman across state lines for prostitution. Park admitted to investigators he drove women from Philadelphia to massage parlors called “Rose Therapy” and “Magical Touch” in Woodbridge, where he knew women offered sexual services.

According to court papers, Park said he did not talk to the women about their immigration status but said “they used to come through Mexico or Canada.” Park received 10 months in prison.

Additional cases successfully prosecuted under the task force include a gang member who recruited runaway girls to serve as prostitutes, a Hispanic gang member who prostituted a 12-year-old girl, a 31-year-old man who prostituted a 16-year-old girl and men who operated prostitution rings, including one in Fairfax County.

In an interview, Carr said the task force is tackling trafficking, working to rescue victims on multiple levels and encouraging cooperation among agencies. Those agencies include local police.

“It is a collaboration of federal, state and local law enforcement who are all dedicated to combating human trafficking and other related crimes,” Carr said.

Non-governmental organizations, including the Polaris Project and Shared Hope International have also taken part in the task force at times, he said.

Also, in May, Gov. Bob McDonnell intended to prevent human trafficking throughout Virginia. The new state laws make trafficking minors a more serious crime, increase the penalty for abducting a minor for child pornography or prostitution and increase state-local coordination to address trafficking issues.

Locally, between November 2010 and September 2011, Mason District Police seized more than $8,000 in cash from illegal massage parlors. Back in 2009, Fairfax County police arrested several people in the Mason Police District, which includes Annandale, for operating massage parlors without permits. Fairfax County police are continuing to work with local zoning and code compliance officials, as well as with business licensing officials, as part of their ongoing efforts.

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