A pair of Centereach brothels, masquerading as massage parlors, forced Chinese sex workers to work 14-hour days and have unprotected sex while the business' operator earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit income, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said Wednesday.
Suffolk law enforcement completed a two-year investigation Wednesday, shutting down two massage parlors, both on Middle Country Road, and charging four individuals, including the alleged ringleader, JianXin You, with operating a prostitution and money-laundering business.
"This is a money making machine off the backs of women who often find themselves in very difficult circumstances. People who feel they have no other way to make a living," Sini said at a news conference in Hauppauge.
The defendant "and others are making hundreds of thousands of dollars … while putting the community at risk and deteriorating the quality of life in the areas that these massage parlors operate."
You, 56, of Manhattan, is charged with enterprise corruption, second- and third-degree money laundering and fourth- and fifth-degree conspiracy.
Prosecutors also charged three managers — each of whom also participated in the sex work. The dozens of sex workers involved in the operation were not charged, officials said.
Li Fang, 38, of Flushing, and Guang Xu, 46, of Flushing, were each charged with enterprise corruption and fifth-degree conspiracy. JinYe Wu, 35, of Brooklyn, is charged with third-degree promoting prostitution and fifth-degree conspiracy.
The four defendants were arraigned Wednesday in Central Islip and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
If convicted of the top count, You, Fang and Xu each face a maximum sentence of 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison while Wu faces up to 2-1/3 to 7 years in prison.
You, the ringleader, would recruit the women using social media and websites and require them to engage in daily sex work, often working 14-hour shifts, seven days a week, Sini said. Despite the availability of condoms, the women were required to have unprotected sex with men, Sini said.
The defendants laundered money through various methods, including exchanging the proceeds for foreign currency, purchasing property, sending large sums to other individuals' accounts and depositing cash into the accounts of business entities, Sini said.
During the two-year investigation, authorities used wiretaps to intercept calls, collect evidence and interview individuals familiar with "how this very secretive operation worked," Sini said.
"This two-year investigation highlights the SCPD’s dedication to rooting out criminal organizations that seek to exploit women into a life of prostitution for their own financial gains," Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement.
Law enforcement officials executed 15 search warrants at six locations Tuesday, seizing $250,000 in cash and two ghost guns that were recovered from a private residence, authorities said.
"These massage parlors are often a community problem," Sini said. "They are a blight in the community with all sort of secondary effects. Shutting them down is certainly a victory for Suffolk County."