6 Arrested in Raid on Alleged Brothel
A police raid at a home in Midway City has uncovered illegal immigrants forced to work as prostitutes to repay a $40,000 fee they owed for their transport from Asia, police said Friday.
“It’s like indentured servitude,” Westminster Police Lt. Bill Lewis said. “They owed their soul to the company store.”
Police arrested six people, including one described by the police chief as a “middle-level organized-crime leader.” He was arrested at an alleged brothel in Midway City and his bail set at $1 million.
The raid was part of an ongoing investigation by police and federal agents and is “only the tip of the iceberg with organized crime” in the area, Westminster Police Chief James Cook said. Investigators said the ring may have operated as many as six houses in Orange County in recent months.
The ring covertly brings Asian women into the United States and then forces them into prostitution, police said. Most are in their late teens or 20s, and they are routinely shuttled among homes in California and beyond, investigators said.
Three to six women work at each house and often make as much as $5,000 a week, Lewis said. The houses are devoid of furniture except for mattresses in each room, he said.
The ring came to the attention of police after a March 1996 home-invasion robbery at an apartment in Westminster. Officers found six illegal immigrants from Thailand working as prostitutes there, and further investigation led to two house raids last year and Thursday’s arrests, Lewis said.
On Thursday, police went to the 14500 block of Newland Street in Midway City and arrested the suspected ringleader, Chung Van Dinh, 36, on suspicion of pandering. They also arrested three women, two of them believed to be illegal immigrants from Thailand, on suspicion of living in a brothel, a misdemeanor. Nawawan Ngao-Sai, 28, and Saidutda Kambin, 22, will be turned over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The third woman, Vi Lay Vanh Phachansitthi of Florida, was booked and released, Lewis said.
Two men also were arrested as suspected members of the ring. Hung Ngoc Nguyen, 22, of Westminster was held on suspicion of pimping, while Hiep Duc Le, whose age was not available, was taken into custody for probation violations and outstanding warrants, Lewis said.
Dinh was arrested as he dropped by the Midway City home “making rounds,” Lewis said. Dinh had $13,000 in his pocket, and police seized another $100,000 at his home in the 8400 block of Peachwood Circle in Westminster, Lewis said.