- Operators accused of selling "party packs" of cocaine and sex
- Ring allegedly laundered money through front businesses
- Wealthy customers in town for the Super Bowl were targets
The 18 operators of a high-end escort service allegedly banking on Super Bowl week to deliver "party packs" of cocaine and prostitutes have been charged with drug and sex trafficking, New York authorities said Thursday.
The nearly year-long undercover investigation discovered that in addition to selling the "party packs," the ring allegedly laundered the illegal proceeds through front businesses that included a clothing wholesaler, a wig wholesaler, a limousine service and a beauty supply wholesaler, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement.
The ring targeted wealthy customers in New York for large events, authorities said. Last week, a text message was blasted to frequent customers noting that "new sexy & beautiful girls R in town waiting for u." The enterprise also ran numerous advertisements on the Internet and on public access television.
Last year alone, the ring made $3 million dollars in credit card sales, authorities said.
Schneiderman said the ring involved thousands of clients and hundreds of prostitutes, primarily women from Korea brought by ring members to the United States.
"Every two months they would bring in a new wave of girls and they increased the importation... because of the increase in demand that accompanies the Super Bowl," Schneiderman told CNN's Deborah Feyerick.
Schneiderman said authorities were identifying the sex trafficking victims "to try to get them out of this cycle of captivity, poverty and abuse."
"This is not viewed any longer as a victimless crime," he said. "This is viewed as something where woman are seized in their own countries, they're blackmailed and held in captivity. This is a crime with a lot of victims. We are approaching these cases now by identifying the woman as victims, not perpetrators."
Intercepted conversations involving the ring revealed that it used various code names for cocaine, including "party," "jewelry," "powder," "maek" and "Soojaebi," a Korean noodle and vegetable soup, the statement said. The prostitutes delivered the cocaine to the customers in what was referred to as a "party pack."
The enterprise allegedly generated millions of dollars in illegal proceeds and planned to target high-end clientele coming to the New York area for the Super Bowl this weekend.
The 11-month investigation involved undercover investigators, physical and electronic surveillance and reviews of business records, the statement said. The attorney general's Organized Crime Task Force and the New York Police found that the criminal enterprise spanned Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens and several states. The operation was based in Manhattan.
Customers were charged for sex and drugs as a package deal, "sometimes billing for cocaine in an equivalent number of 'hours' of prostitution," the statement said.
The ring commonly supplied customers with large quantities of drugs to get them impaired, authorities said. Then the room would be flooded with additional prostitutes, and the customer's credit cards would be charged, at times upward of $10,000 for one night. Through front businesses, the ring would charge credit cards for goods and services not actually provided in order to hide the purchases of cocaine and sex.
Most of the 18 suspects were arrested but some were still being sought. Those charged with various felony and misdemeanor counts were identified as Tony Yoo, 34; Jopseh Landrum, 32; Hyun Ok Yoon, 41; Young Ok, 38; Kyung Chun Min, 33; Sun Lee Ahn, 56; Young Mi Lee, 40; Ji Young Moon, 40; Janice Lee, 35; Hee Jung Chern, 42; Haiming Quan, 41; Kyong Bin Cho, 44; Jung Hee Jang, 43; In Suk Cho, 49; Ji Young Lee, 34; Hada Jang, 26; Nina Kim, 31; Hajoung Heath, 40.