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3 charged in federal court for operating sex ring in Virginia, Massachusetts

Four police officers are seen standing in front of a courthouse's brick wall.
Michael Dwyer
/
(AP File Photo)
In this 2015 file image, police stand guard outside the federal courthouse in Boston. Three people have been arrested on allegations that they ran a "sophisticated" commercial sex ring in Massachusetts and Virginia.

BOSTON — Three people have been charged with running a sophisticated commercial sex ring in Massachusetts and Northern Virginia that catered to well-connected clients such as elected officials and military officers, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Women were featured on websites that falsely claimed to advertise nude Asian models for professional photography, and high-end apartments with monthly rents as high as $3,660 were used as brothels, prosecutors say. Another website allowed clients to rate the women, prosecutors say.

"This commercial sex ring was built on secrecy and exclusivity, catering to a wealthy and well-connected clientele, and business was booming, until today," Acting Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Josh Levy said.

Authorities have not named the people believed to have bought services through the ring, and none of them have been charged. But Levy stressed that the investigation is in the early stages, and said that prosecutors are committed to holding accountable both those who ran the scheme and those who "fueled the demand for this ring."

In a Wednesday press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts, "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."

Levy said there were possibly hundreds of clients, including government contractors with security clearances, doctors, lawyers, elected officials, military officers, professors and executives at tech companies.

Han "Hana" Lee 41, of Cambridge, Massachusett; James Lee, 68, of Torrance, California; and Junmyung Lee, 30, of Dedham, Massachusetts are charged in the case with conspiracy to coerce and entice others to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity.

An attorney for Han Lee declined to comment and an email seeking comment was sent to a lawyer for Junmyung Lee. There was no attorney listed for James Lee in court records, and a message seeking comment was sent to a number listed as a relative.

Authorities used surveillance and phone records to identify sex buyers and interviewed about 20 of them during the investigation, according to court papers. One buyer told investigators he was directed via text message to an apartment and provided a menu of women, services and the hourly rate. Levy said men could become pre-cleared for sex services in a process similar to TSA PreCheck.

Han and Junmyung are accused of running the day-to-day operations of the Massachusetts brothels, and Han is also accused of overseeing the daily operations of the Virginia ones, according to court papers. That included arranging for transportation for the women and collecting proceeds, authorities allege. Prosecutors say James Lee also leased several of the current and former brothel locations in Massachusetts and Virginia.

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