Federal agents arrested 31 Korean nationals on Tuesday who were charged in a wide-ranging human trafficking ring operating throughout the Northeastern United States. Also arrested were two officers from the New York City Police Department who allegedly accepted over $125,000.00 in bribes.
The defendants have been charged by the United States Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York with crimes including conspiracy to engage in human trafficking; conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation of women for the purpose of prostitution and interstate transportation of women for the purpose of prostitution, conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and transportation of illegal aliens; and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.
The defendants include brothel owners and managers, middlemen who worked as transporters and otherwise assisted the organization, and individuals involved in unlicensed money transmitting businesses. Immigration and FBI agents executed arrest warrants and search warrants in New York, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, North Carolina, and California.
According to complaints unsealed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court and in Brooklyn federal court, the investigation began in May 2005, when a Korean couple who owned and operated a chain of Korean brothels in Queens, New York, attempted to bribe an undercover New York City Police Department detective to protect their businesses from being raided by law enforcement. Working in an undercover capacity, the detective began accepting bribes from the couple.
Between May 2005 and March 2006, the couple paid the undercover detective a total of $126,500 in cash bribes.
On March 8, 2006, the couple and two NYPD officers, who were discovered during the investigation to be accepting bribes, were arrested and charged with public corruption offenses. That prosecution is pending in federal district court in Brooklyn before the Honorable Sandra L. Townes.
The government expanded its investigation and obtained a court-authorized wiretap on the telephone of Tae Hoon Kim, also known as “Tae Won,” the Queens Borough-based middleman and transporter. The wiretap led to the discovery of an extensive network of Korean-owed brothels, stretching from Rhode Island to Washington, D.C.
According to court documents, the trafficking process typically began when recruiters in Korea and the United States identified women in Korea who wanted to come to the United States, often to make money to support their families in Korea. The recruiters would then arrange for the transportation of the women to North America.
In some cases, the recruiters provided the women with false immigration documents to enable the women to enter the United States illegally. In other instances, the women were taken into the custody of other handlers in Canada or Mexico and then smuggled into the United States.
The complaints allege that, by the time the women arrived in the United States, they had incurred large financial debts, usually in the tens of thousands of dollars, to the recruiters in Korea and other members of the defendants’ organization.
Middlemen in the United States arranged for the women to be placed in one of the network