News/US: U.S. Says Asian Women Held In Prostitution Schem

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Subject: News/US: U.S. Says Asian Women Held In Prostitution Schem
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Tue Aug 24 1999 - 16:55:57 EDT


U.S. Says Asian Women Held In Prostitution Scheme
Reuters, August 20, 1999

ATLANTA--Authorities in Atlanta have broken up a ring that smuggled up to
1,000 Asian women into the United States to work in brothels as virtual
prisoners, a federal prosecutor said Friday.

Assistant U.S. attorney Janis Gordon said the women -- from China,
Thailand, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam -- signed contracts requiring them to
pay the smugglers, known as "snakeheads", fees that ranged from $30,000 to
$40,000.

She said guards kept them from leaving the brothels across the country
until they had paid their debts.

Gordon said 13 people had been indicted in the case. Six of the suspects
had either turned themselves in or been arrested and seven were fugitives
>from justice, she said.

The prostitution ring stretched across the United States, Gordon said, with
the women flying from city to city to work in brothels where there was a
demand for Asian prostitutes.

"There were hundreds of women involved," Gordon said. "We may never find
them all. They would be here two weeks and then sent to Baltimore, Boston
or California.

"There were at least 500 to 1,000 women who came through Atlanta," she
said. "They would be paid $100 a trick, with $30 of it going to the house
and $70 going to pay off their importation contracts.

"Then they would be sent to another city because customers didn't want the
same woman over and over again," she said.

Gordon said the brothels made so much money that the cost of flying women
>from city to city was insignificant.

"We found one brothel grossed $1.5 million over a two-and-a-half-year
period, so the cost of airplane tickets was minimal to their business," she
said.

Gordon said some of the women knew when they signed contracts in Asia that
they would become prostitutes once they reached the United States, but many
others did not.

"We are treating this as a case of illegal importation because they were
not allowed to go free until they paid off their contracts," she said.

"It was bondage in the sense that there was no getting out until you paid
off your contract. It was pitiful, it really was," she said.

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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