Three Koreans Charged With Operating Sex Trafficking Network for "High End" Clientele

"Politicians, high tech and pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, scientists, and accountants" were identified as "buyers" in a "commercial sex trafficking" ring in "greater Boston and eastern Virginia," according to a Nov. 8 press release from Acting United States Attorney Joshua Levy in the District of Massachusetts. Officials arrested three individuals for "operating sophisticated high-end brothels."

Three defendants were charged with "conspiracy to coerce and entice travel to engage in illegal sexual activity." Ms. HAN Lee, 41, of Cambridge, Mass, Mr. James Lee, 68, of Torrance, CA, and Mr. Jummyung Lee, 30, of Dedham, Mass., were arrested on Wednesday morning. Two appeared in Court in Boston shortly after the arrest. James Lee was arrested in CA and will appear in federal court in Boston "at a later date." "Approximately twenty sex buyers were interviewed in connection with this multi-yearlong investigation," according to an affidavit in the charging documents for USA v. HAN Lee, et al.

The affidavit from DHS Special Agent Zachary Mitlitsky shows the three individuals have been operating since around July 2020. The alleged co-conspirators allegedly "advertis[ed] women for commercial sex" using at least two separate websites "under the guise of" offering "professional nude photo shoots." It seems the three co-conspirators were targeting Asian women in their "interstate prostitution network" while claiming on one of the websites that they were not "solicit[ing], encourag[ing] or sanction[ing] any sexual activity."

The websites were named (Mass.) and (VA), according to the affidavit. The website with locations in Virginia did, however, "promote prostitution in at least two Target locations in Virginia." The affidavit also states the belief that the advertisements for photographing nude models "is in fact a front for escort services and/or commercial sex services or prostitution" offered by appointment and also indicates women might have traveled between the Massachusetts and Virginia brothels. Mitlitsky indicates in his affidavit that there were also plans to open other brothel locations in New Jersey. 

The websites collected personal information on clients to verify their identities. The buyers would then be "instructed to contact one of two phone numbers listed on the website." After the verification process, buyers could book appointments and receive text messages from "phone numbers [from what were called 'Brothel Phones'] associated with the brothels." Alternatively, according to Special Agent Mitlitsky, clients "could be verified through their "TerID" or through Preferred 411."

Mitlitsky explains that "TerID" refers to "identification assigned to commercial sex workers and to VIP members of a website titled" Erotic Review provides clients with access to reviews of sex workers and allows searches of lists featuring sex workers. "Preferred 411" refers to the website The use of "Preferred411" directs clients to complete a New Client application in order to obtain membership on the website. According to Mitlitsky, membership costs $119 for the first six months, with renewal rates at "varying price points."

The "sex buyers" interviewed described "arranging to meet at various locations," including Target locations and apartments nearby. Customers would receive a "menu" of available women, "the sexual services available, and the hourly rate."

The image of the sample text message below shows that "Tina and Marie" were offered to Customer A. According to the affidavit, "BB" indicates "sex without a condom," and "GFE" refers to "GirlFriend Experience." GFE allegedly "provides a more intimate experience and blurs boundaries between a financial transaction and a romantic relationship." Customers paid cash for the services. Many of the actual apartment locations are listed in the charging documents. 

Mitlitsky testified that "both the Boston and the Virginia brothels are high-end because of the high cost associated with the rental units, their locations, and the scope of professional disciplines of the sex buyers." They allegedly paid "premium rates" ranging from "$350 to upwards of $600 per hour" depending on the services chosen. The websites were "updated frequently," with women listed on the site. Measurements and other identifying details are provided on the women being trafficked. New buyers or clients were termed as "Photographers," but Mitlitsky believes the name is code for "men purchasing sex for the first time" on the Boston Top 10 website. 

According to the affidavit, "the co-conspirators, mainly HAN and JUNMYUNG, used coercive tactics to maintain the fluidity and effectiveness of the rotation of women. Some of the tactics include but are not limited to delivering food to females so they did not have to exit the building and spend time away from the apartment, ensuring the unit is prepared before the arrival of a female, and assisting females with their luggage into the brothel units, and subsequently locking the door behind them after exiting. I believe HAN used this tactic so that the commercial sex providers felt that they had to stay in the unit to perform sex acts for cash on behalf of the prostitution network." The female sex workers were allegedly not able to negotiate their services, but rather the services were "predetermined." Mitlitsky adds, "In the simplest terms, the commercial sex workers only had to show up, work for sex, and get paid."

The defendants listed coordinated the signing of leases for brothels, assisting the women with travel arrangements, luggage, and groceries, collecting brothel proceeds, and depositing them in U.S. bank accounts. HAN Lee was born in Korea and "came to the U.S. in October 2014" when she "acquired a visitor's visa and subsequently overstayed the length of the visa." She allegedly applied for permanent residency in the United States around 2019, "representing to immigration authorities that she married a United States citizen." Han manages many brothel locations in Massachusetts and communicates with customers on both websites. She allegedly avoided financial reporting requirements by "exchanging cash for money orders in increments equal to and less than $1000."

Junmyung Lee was also born in Korea. He "began his F1 student visa process in January 2018 to attend the Computer Systems Institute in Boston, MA." Lee also avoids financial reporting requirements by exchanging cash in smaller increments.

James Lee signed leases in both states and allegedly "submitted fraudulent identification documents in other identities" to sign leases. He allegedly "collects about $1000 per month per apartment lease that he places in his identity (or his fraudulent identities) as a form of payment from the prostitution business," according to Mitlitsky's affidavit.

Investigators have also "identified a number of deposits from various COVID-related relief funds flowing into the accounts of the three co-conspirators." Illicit proceeds from the prostitution business "moved rapidly through their various bank accounts" to avoid detection, according to the affidavit. 

The investigation is "active and ongoing," according to the Nov. 8 press release. The charge of conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity "provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case."

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