The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday the arrest of three individuals in “connection with operating sophisticated high-end brothels in greater Boston and eastern Virginia.”
“Commercial sex buyers allegedly included elected officials, high tech and pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, attorneys, scientists and accountants, among others,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts stated in a press release.
“The following defendants have been charged with conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity,” the press release added:
- Han Lee, a/k/a “Hana,” 41, of Cambridge, Mass.;
- James Lee, 68, of Torrance, Calif.; and
- Junmyung Lee, 30, of Dedham, Mass.
#BREAKING Three arrested for allegedly operating sophisticated high-end brothels in MA and VA. Sex buyers allegedly included politicians, executives, doctors, military officers, professors, attorneys, scientists, accountants @HSINewEngland https://t.co/TvHW3R6L6B
— U.S. Attorney Massachusetts (@DMAnews1) November 8, 2023
The press release states:
According to the charging documents, from at least July 2020, the defendants operated an interstate prostitution network with multiple brothels in Cambridge and Watertown, Mass., as well as in Fairfax and Tysons, Va.
It is alleged that the defendants collectively established the infrastructure for brothels in multiple states which they used to persuade, induce and entice women – primarily Asian women – to travel to Massachusetts and Virginia to engage in prostitution.
Specifically, the defendants allegedly rented high-end apartment complexes as brothel locations, which they furnished and regularly maintained. The monthly rent for the brothel locations were as high as $3,664. It is further alleged that the defendants coordinated the women’s airline travel and transportation and permitted women to stay overnight in the brothel locations so they did not have to find lodging elsewhere, therefore enticing women to participate in their prostitution network.
The defendants allegedly advertised their prostitution network primarily on two websites – bostontopten10.com and browneyesgirlsva.blog – which offered appointments with women in either greater Boston or eastern Virginia, respectively. Both websites purported to advertise nude Asian models for professional photography at upscale studios as a front for prostitution offered through appointments with women listed on their websites. The websites listed the height, weight and bust size of women available for appointments and depicted nude and/or semi-nude photographs of each. The women listed as available on the websites updated frequently, with updates to include “coming soon” or “open” to reflect an impending arrival of new women arriving in the area.
Each website allegedly described a verification process that interested sex buyers undertook to be eligible for appointment bookings– including requiring clients complete a form providing their full names, email address, phone number, employer and reference if they had one.
It is further alleged that the defendants maintained local brothel phone numbers which they used to communicate with verified customers and schedule appointments via text message. In these text message exchanges, the defendants allegedly sent customers a “menu” of available options at the brothel, including the women and sexual services available and the hourly rate. Additionally, the defendants allegedly texted customers directions to the brothel’s location – a high-end apartments – where they engaged in commercial sex with the women.
According to the charging documents, the defendants charged sex buyers a premium price for appointments with the women advertised on their websites, which ranged from approximately $350 to upwards of $600 per hour depending on the services and were paid in cash. The defendants allegedly concealed the proceeds of the prostitution network through depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash proceeds into their personal bank accounts and peer-to-peer transfers. Additionally, it is alleged that the defendants regularly used hundreds of thousands of dollars of the cash proceeds from the prostitution business to purchase money orders (in values under an amount that would trigger reporting and identification requirements) to conceal the source of the funds. These money orders were then used to pay for rent and utilities at brothel locations in Massachusetts and Virginia.
Over the course of the investigation, a wide array of buyers were identified, including, but not limited to, politicians, high tech and pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, scientists and accountants.
The investigation into the involvement of sex buyers is active and ongoing.
Prosecutors have not named the customers who used the brothels’ services.
UPDATE: 3 people have been charged with operating a “high-end brothel network” in Massachusetts & Virginia with a clientele that included elected officials, military officers and government contractors with security clearances. pic.twitter.com/Ly9I0ZpKDe
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) November 8, 2023
“The Virginia locations are close to Washington, D.C., in an area that is rife with government contractors, many of whom have government security clearances,” CNBC wrote.
“The Boston area is home to many pharmaceutical and tech firms, top financial services and law firms, and leading American universities,” the outlet added.
High-end brothels serviced elected officials, tech and pharma execs, military brass: Feds https://t.co/zVfKX57Ng6
— Bo Snerdley (@BoSnerdley) November 8, 2023
About 20 “sex buyers” were interviewed by the investigators as part of a multiyear probe of the network, according to an affidavit that supported the criminal complaint.
“I believe there are potentially hundreds of yet to be identified customers,” a Department of Homeland Security special agent wrote in that affidavit.
The agent did not name the customers known to have used the brothels’ services, but noted, “I do not do this for purposes of maintaining their anonymity, but instead do so because our investigation into their involvement in prostitution is active and ongoing.”
In a court filing later Wednesday seeking to have James Lee, 68, detained without bail as a flight risk, prosecutors pointed to evidence showing that he had rented the apartments used as brothels under his name and “at least two fraudulent identities.”
“Financial records indicate that James has several businesses and corresponding business bank accounts in his name and in the names of his fraudulent identities, which I believe he uses to launder the proceeds of the prostitution business,” Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Zachary Mitlitsky wrote in an affidavit supporting that detention request.
James Lee’s business accounts also show deposits of $550,633 in federal Covid-19 relief funds related to various companies controlled by him or by identities that are suspected of being him, the affidavit said.
The affidavit says the Covid-19 relief funds were possibly “fraudulently obtained.”
The complaint suggests that the investigation began in 2020, when a confidential source who was awaiting sentencing on then-pending federal criminal charges provided information to authorities about the network of brothels.
The criminal complaint says that between December 2019 and October this year, Han Lee “has deposited just under $795,000 of cash into her personal Bank of America bank accounts, while also utilizing another approximately $109,000 in cash to make payments against her Bank of America credit card account, which she utilizes regularly for travel related purchases and other expenses associated with brothel operations.”
During the same time period, Junmyung, who is a student, “has deposited just under $194,000 cash into his personal Bank of America account, while also utilizing another $47,305 in cash to make payments against his Bank of America credit card account,” the complaint said.