News/US: Jury Acquits Emigre in Prostitution Ring Case

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Subject: News/US: Jury Acquits Emigre in Prostitution Ring Case
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Jul 12 1999 - 14:08:59 EDT


Jury Acquits Emigre in Prostitution Ring Case
+Courts: Brothel worker says he did not know the women were illegal
immigrants, the key issue in his trial.
By DAVID ROSENZWEIG
Los Angeles Times, July 3, 1999

Cambodian emigre was acquitted Friday of federal charges that he harbored
illegal immigrants who worked at a house of prostitution in Long Beach.

Vu Tieng-Phou, also acquitted of conspiracy, was given a bit of friendly
advice by his lawyer after the verdict.

"You be careful," said defense attorney Steven M. Cron. "You don't go
places where you don't know the people."

Prosecutors had portrayed Tieng-Phou as the manager of day-to-day
operations at the Long Beach house, one of several allegedly run by a ring
that smuggled girls and young women from Mexico to work as prostitutes.

Two admitted prostitutes testified during the trial that Tieng-Phou was in
the house almost every day and collected money from their clients, then
turned it over to the ring's mastermind, Sammy Cheung. Cheung, who was set
to go on trial with Tieng-Phou, pleaded guilty earlier this week to the
same charges of conspiracy and harboring illegal immigrants. U.S. District
Judge A. Howard Matz set sentencing for Sept. 27.

In his closing argument to the jury, Cron pointed out that Tieng-Phou was
being tried on the harboring and conspiracy charges, not for running a
house of prostitution.

"Mr. Phou was working as a pimp and nothing more," Cron said. He said the
prosecution had failed to show that Tieng-Phou knew the women were illegal
immigrants. The women spoke only Spanish and the defendant converses only
in Cambodian.

One of the women who testified against him was a 20-year-old mother of
three who said she was enticed into prostitution by promises that she would
make $15 a customer, which equaled her weekly salary as a cleaning woman in
Mexico.

A similar account was given by a 17-year-old Mexican girl who testified
that she became a prostitute "so I can support my family better."

The two are being allowed to return to Mexico without being charged.


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