News/US: Mexican Girl Tells of Being Recruited for Prostitution

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Subject: News/US: Mexican Girl Tells of Being Recruited for Prostitution
From: Melanie Orhant (
Date: Mon Jul 12 1999 - 14:09:02 EDT

Mexican Girl Tells of Being Recruited for Prostitution
Court: She is second immigrant to testify in trial of man accused of
running Long Beach operation.
Los Angeles Times, July 2, 1999

A 17-year-old mother of three testified Thursday that she worked as a
prostitute to support her mother and children in Mexico.

The woman, identified only as Rosalva because of her age, testified in
federal court on the last day of a trial of a man accused of running a
prostitution ring in Long Beach.

Often looking downward and speaking in a hushed tone, Rosalva said through
a court interpreter that a woman she met in her hometown in Mexico told her
"I should come here so I can support my family better."

She also said that the woman told her that she would make $15 a client, and
could return to Mexico after a few months.

Rosalva was the second woman allegedly recruited into the ring to testify
this week in U.S. District Court against Vu Tieng-Phou. He is charged with
one count of conspiracy and one count of harboring undocumented immigrants.

Tieng-Phou faces 20 years in prison if convicted. The jury started
deliberating Thursday.

Rosalva testified that she was seeking a way to make more money than she
made cleaning houses in her homeland. She said she received no financial
support from her husband and sent the tips she received from clients to her
mother in Mexico.

Each client paid $60, she said, and it was all given to Tieng-Phou, whom
Rosalva pointed out in court. She also said he kept records of transactions
and handed the money over to Sammy Cheung, the ring's alleged mastermind
who was also charged in the case.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office tried to paint Tieng-Phou as
the person who oversaw the day-to-day operation of the alleged prostitution
ring, which involved recruiting women and girls from Mexico, and smuggling
them across the border to work in various houses in the Los Angeles area.

They alleged that Tieng-Phou helped run the operation, uncovered by police
in January, at a Long Beach home. Rosalva testified that Tieng-Phou would
be at the house from about 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. almost every day, sometimes
getting meals for the women or helping to cover the windows with
nailed-down cloth. She said she saw him have conversations with Cheung.

Defense attorney Steven M. Cron, however, tried to show that both Rosalva
and Yolanda Echeverria Cruz, who earlier testified against Tieng-Phou, may
have been influenced by the fact that after their testimony, they would be
allowed to return to Mexico without criminal prosecution.

In his closing statement, Cron, who did not call any witnesses, told the
jury that prosecutors failed to show that Tieng-Phou knew the women were
undocumented. "Mr. Phou was working as a pimp and nothing more," he said.

In this federal case, Cron said, the jury is not to determine guilt or
innocence in pimping, but only whether he knew the women were illegal
immigrants and harbored them.

Co-defendant Cheung pleaded guilty this week to charges of conspiracy and
harboring illegal immigrants. He will be sentenced Sept. 27.

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