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Indictment Charges 23 Hmong With Series of Rapes

From Associated Press

A grand jury convened after the notorious 1998 gang rape of three young girls at a Fresno motel has charged 23 Hmong men and boys in connection with a series of rapes.

The 826-count indictment, unsealed Wednesday, charges the defendants with raping girls and forcing them to prostitute themselves, police said.

All but one of the defendants were arrested Tuesday. Thirteen were already in custody in connection with previous rapes. Others were picked up in Nevada, North Carolina and Minnesota, where other large Hmong populations have settled.

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Earlier this month, four victims, aged 13 to 15, agreed to testify before the Fresno County grand jury, which rarely meets on criminal matters. Their testimony provided the backbone for the indictment.

Police suspect that members of the Mongolian Boys Society, a predominantly Hmong, Fresno-based gang, are either kidnapping or luring girls between the ages of 11 and 15, raping them repeatedly, then forcing them to work as prostitutes. In some cases, they are taken across state lines for prostitution, police say.

“When these investigations are over, we will have incarcerated the major portion of the Mongolian Boys Society,” said lead police detective Jimmy Olson.

The suspects in the latest case range in age from 14 to 45, and face charges that include rape, false imprisonment, kidnapping, witness intimidation, pimping, pandering and lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 14.

Fresno County gang officials said the suspects are preying on the girls’ youth and their fear of shaming their families. In Hmong culture, a girl who loses her virginity before marriage may be looked down upon by her own relatives, even if she is forcibly raped.

Tuesday’s arrests mark the third phase of a sweeping investigation that dates back 18 months to the time when three young Clovis girls were gang-raped at a motel in west Fresno. In that case, defendants received sentences ranging from two to 280 years.

A separate 500-count indictment last year charged 14 defendants, who are scheduled for trial Nov. 15.


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