One of the most “sophisticated human trafficking operations” in the country has been shut down after four were charged in St. Paul for their roles in an international sex trafficking and prostitution ring.
The enterprise took women from China and Korea to areas throughout the country to be sold as prostitutes. The prostitutes had to work 12-14 hours a day, were raped, beaten, and lost their freedoms. Many lost their passports, and earned little money after having to pay traffickers fees for hotel usage, transportation, and other expenses related to their “work.” The women were typically between the ages of 32 and 45.
The reach of the ring was extensive. In the past two years, as many as 20,000 ads on backpage.com related to the ring were placed in 29 states. The ring claimed thousands of victims as well. Members of the ring had dozens of phones on hand to arrange “dates” and meetings with the prostitutes. Investigators called it the “Uber of sex trafficking.”
In February, law enforcement busted a small portion of the ring in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. During the bust, officers found men lined up outside of a townhome that contained two mattresses and three prostitutes. The prostitutes spoke very little English. They did not ask for help or services, for fear that they would be deported. The women appeared to be fully dependent on the traffickers.
This even kicked off the investigation of the ring, which was based out of Irvine, California. By tracing phone calls and other personal information, investigators were able to identify top players in the trafficking ring. One, authorities say, had over $850,000 in their bank account.
A mother and daughter, Hong Jing and Fangyao Wu, of Irvine, allegedly run the whole operation. Police also identified Sophia Wang Navas and Dongzhou Jiang as heads of the ring.
Jiang, who specifically ran operations in Minnesota, North Dakota, and the surrounding area, was apprehended in Washington County. The other three were arrested in California, but will head to St. Paul to hear the charges against them. The four are charged with racketeering, sex trafficking, promotion of prostitution, concealing criminal proceeds and engaging in the business of concealing criminal proceeds in connection with a criminal enterprise profiteering off the sale of vulnerable human beings for sex.
That’s a mouthful. And worth decades of time behind bars.
The Penalties for Sex Trafficking and Related Crimes
Sex trafficking is becoming one of the most talked-about human rights violations in the world. Many people have been in denial about the existence of sex trafficking and sex slavery in the United States. Unfortunately, sex slavery exists in our own backyards. But the criminal justice system takes these crimes seriously, and imposes big penalties on people who are involved with sex trafficking as a john, patron, etc.
Prostitution and sex trafficking are commonly linked and charged together, although we must understand the brevity of relocating people, often by deceit or force, across borders in order to make them a sex slave. Since the four people charged last month in Minnesota were involved in a criminal enterprise that included moving people across international borders, their case is likely to head to federal courts.
For now, let’s stick to Minnesota penalties for sex trafficking. Sex trafficking charges and penalties depend on a variety of factors, including the age of the victim and if they suffered prolonged captivity. Minnesota law recommends the following penalties:
Second Degree Sex Trafficking/Prostitution; Up to 15 years in prison or $40,000 in fines:
- The offender engages in sex trafficking of an individual; or
- Receives profit, knowing or having reason to know that it is derived from the prostitution, or the promotion of prostitution, of an individual
First Degree Sex Trafficking/Prostitution; Up to 20 years in prison or $50,000 in fines:
- The offender engages in the sex trafficking of an individual under the age of 18 years; or
- Receives profit, knowing or having reason to know that it is derived from the prostitution, or the promotion of the prostitution, of an individual under the age of 18 years
First Degree Sex Trafficking/Prostitution; Up to 25 years in prison or $60,000 in fines:
- The offender has a previous conviction for human trafficking crimes
- The victim of sex trafficking suffered bodily harm during the time of the offense
- The victim was held in bondage or forced labor for over 180 days; or
- The offense involves more than one victim
If You Have Been Charged With Sex Trafficking
The penalties for sex trafficking are serious, just at the state level. If your case allegedly involves moving victims across state or federal borders, you may face federal penalties. If you have been arrested or charged, get in touch with a Minnesota sex crimes lawyer immediately.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).