News/US: Prostitutes Smuggled Into U.S., Court Told

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Subject: News/US: Prostitutes Smuggled Into U.S., Court Told
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Jul 12 1999 - 14:09:05 EDT


Prostitutes Smuggled Into U.S., Court Told
By CAITLIN LIU
Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1999

She was a young mother from Mexico, so desperate for money that she was
willing to travel illegally to the United States to work as a prostitute.

Yolanda Cruz, 20, the first witness to testify against one of the alleged
participants in a Long Beach prostitution ring uncovered by police in
January, told a U.S. District Court jury Wednesday that she was performing
sex acts for $60 several times a day.

She identified the defendant, Vu Tieng-Phou, as the man who collected money
>from her clients, kept records of the transactions and communicated with
her, mostly through hand gestures. Cruz, who speaks only Spanish, testified
through a translator.

Phou has been charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of
harboring illegal immigrants. If convicted on both, he could receive 20
years in prison, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Wendy O. Clendening.

Last year, the ring recruited several women and girls from Mexico to work
as prostitutes and smuggled them across the border, prosecutors said. The
women and girls lived and worked together in various houses in the Los
Angeles area, including one in Long Beach.

Cruz said she was enticed into prostitution by promises that she would earn
$15 per customer, which equaled her weekly salary as a cleaning woman in
Mexico.

Defense attorney Steven M. Cron sought to show that Cruz's testimony might
be affected by the fact that federal prosecutors agreed not to bring
charges against her in exchange for her cooperation.

The second man charged in connection with the ring, Sammy Cheung, pleaded
guilty Monday to charges of conspiracy and harboring illegal immigrants,
Clendening said. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 27.

Earlier Wednesday, Judge A. Howard Matz denied a motion by prosecutors and
a public defender to close the court for a 17-year-old witness, who had
also worked as a prostitute for the ring. The attorneys had argued that the
girl might be too intimidated to testify truthfully and clearly in front of
a courtroom audience.

But Matz responded that closing the court was "not fair to the defense and
inconsistent with rights of the press." The teenager is expected to testify
today.


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