#sextrafficking | Washington County charges offer glimpse into the secret world of Chinese sex trafficking – Twin Cities | #tinder | #pof | #match


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A couple living in Houston used the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat to recruit Chinese women to come to the U.S. to become prostitutes in Woodbury, Roseville and Shoreview, according to law enforcement officials.

Xiaojing Ke, 25, and her boyfriend, Jie Li, 31, orchestrated an elaborate scheme involving multiple women and massage parlors and hotels in Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Louisiana and Texas, officials said.

Xiaojing Ke (Courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

The couple faces multiple felony-level sex-trafficking charges in Washington County, including racketeering and concealing criminal proceeds. They were arrested last month in Chicago and extradited to Minnesota.

“This is a complex, sophisticated, global sex trafficking operation that covers multiple states and countries,” said Imran Ali, assistant Washington County Attorney and director of the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force, a partnership of Washington County and other suburban law enforcement and prosecutors. “It’s a lucrative enterprise. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars.”

The prostitution took place in Minnesota last summer, “but this operation ran 365 days a year involving multiple females around the country,” Ali said.

More charges are expected. Law enforcement officials have identified dozens of victims “recruited, solicited and promoted by this illegal enterprise,” Ali said. The women range in age from 21 to 65, he said.

“They’re targeted because they speak little English and come from modest means in China,” Ali said. “Many don’t initially identify as a victim, and they refuse any services. Many fear retaliations from the larger criminal network, reprisal from family members in China and a loss of their only income.”

‘SHE COULD NOT JUST QUIT’

That was just the type of threat used against one woman caught up in the network, officials say.

She told investigators that she was recruited through WeChat and connected with Ke, who offered her a job in a massage parlor in Chicago. When the 43-year-old woman arrived in Chicago, “there was no massage parlor,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Washington County District Court. Instead, a man attempted to recruit her to prostitution in a hotel. She refused.

Jie Li (Courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office)

Ke then offered her a job at a massage parlor in Houston, according to the complaint.

The woman, identified as “L.S.” in the complaint, started working at a Texas spa in June 2019 and “admitted to performing prostitution while at the illicit massage parlor,” the complaint states.

Ke told the woman that “she could not just quit,” the complaint states, and that “if she tried to quit, Ke would tell her husband and child and all of her family that she was a prostitute.” Ke also took her passport, according to the complaint.

The woman said she paid to live at the spa and gave Ke $40 for every customer she saw; she was allowed to keep the rest of the base massage price and any tips, according to the complaint.

The woman told investigators that she started to do prostitution work in hotels at the direction of Ke at multiple locations in the U.S. Ke would tell her where to go, including several in Woodbury.

FROM LOUISIANA TO ROSEVILLE

Another woman, identified as “G.H.” in the complaint, said she met Ke while working at a massage parlor in Louisiana and went to work at Ke’s massage parlor in Houston in January 2019.

“G.H. admitted that she would perform sex acts in exchange for money while employed there and … Ke knew prostitution was occurring at her business,” the complaint states.

The woman, who is 47, said she decided to do prostitution work in hotels instead and worked at hotels under Ke’s direction in Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Louisiana and Texas, according to the complaint. Investigators found her at a hotel in Roseville on Aug. 29.

Ke would use an online site to book the hotel rooms, according to the complaint. During a five-month stretch last year, 78 hotel rooms were booked from one of Ke’s accounts on the hotel booking site, the complaint states.

Credit cards belonging to Li had dozens of payments to airlines, car rentals, ride-sharing programs and hotel sites, investigators found. There were also charges to a website used to post commercial sex ads, including in Minnesota, the complaint said.

TWO OTHERS CHARGED

Criminal charges against two others help explain how the money was allegedly handled. Aidi Lin, 62, and Juliet Yang, 24, also have been charged in connection with the case.

Lin and Yang were allegedly involved in the posting of commercial sex advertisements and assisting in coordinating sex dates with buyers at predetermined locations, according to the complaint.

When investigators searched Lin’s bank records, they found 94 cash deposits totaling $110,521 from December 2018 to October 2019.

Lin is believed to be in China, and a warrant has been issued for her arrest. “If she tries to come back into the country, she’ll be arrested,” Ali said.

Yang also handled money for Ke. According to the complaint, L.S. told officers that her “boss” took 40 percent of the money she made. On Aug. 5, for example, L.S. made $940. At the end of the week, she sent a tally to Ke that read: “2542 + 570 + 510 + 940 + 940 + 450 + 410 = 6362.” Ke responded that L.S. had made a “fortune” that week, the complaint states, and instructed her to make a “quick pay of $1,200 to a Zelle account” that belonged to Yang; Zelle is an electronic money-transfer app.


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