A Temecula woman was among six people charged this week with operating a sprawling prostitution ring that forced women — many of them from China — to work in brothels across the globe, federal authorities announced.
The complex international prostitution enterprise relied on at least 25 websites, the encrypted messenger service WeChat, a group of dispatchers that arranged “dates” with customers and a series of leased apartments and motel rooms spread across the U.S., Canada and Australia, federal prosecutors wrote in indictments unsealed Wednesday following arrests by the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force in Portland, Ore.
The business was run by Mark Chen, 46, of Toronto, who used a computer program to schedule and track sexual meetings, logging customer phone numbers and details from previous encounters, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said 33-year-old Yan Wang, also known as Sarah Wang, of Temecula was a dispatcher in the organization, scheduling customers’ encounters with the women at various brothels.
The since-seized websites showed photos of women in bikinis and lingerie and advertised “escorts” in various locations, including Los Angeles, Oakland, Anaheim, Bakersfield, Palmdale and San Diego, as well as cities throughout the United States.
Chen, Wang and two others are in custody, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. Wang was arrested by the FBI’s Los Angeles Division and made an appearance before a federal magistrate judge in L.A. on Tuesday.
Two suspects remain at large. Weixuan Zhou, 37, who registered the websites, is believed to be in China, while the whereabouts of Chaodan Wang, who prosecutors say managed and leased residences used as brothels in Oregon, are unknown, authorities said.
In addition to the arrests, the FBI assisted five victims in Oregon. The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office victim services programs worked with local nonprofit agencies to ensure the women have access to social, medical and legal services, according to the news release.
Renn Cannon, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon, said in a statement that community members who suspect illegal activity should come forward to help authorities identify instances of human trafficking.
“Vulnerable women looking for a new life in the U.S. instead find traffickers who cash in on their cultural isolation by profiting from the sale of sex services,” he said. “In many cases, these women lack the language skills and understanding of American civil rights to ask for help or assistance from law enforcement.”
Authorities asked anyone with information on the investigation to contact the nearest FBI office or submit information online.