News Story

 

Human Trafficking Organization Members Identified and Arrested
8/23/2016 3:00:00 PM

 

Nature of Incident:

Human Trafficking Organization Members Identified and Arrested

Report Number:

16-28554

Location:

Various Motels in Southern California

Date & Time:

February through August, 2016

Unit(s) Responsible:

Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Ventura County District Attorney's Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Franchise Tax Board, Oxnard Police Department

 

(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (P)arty, (D)ecedent

City of Residence

Age

(S) Hsin Chieh 'Jerry' Wang

(S) Defung Hu

(S) Yiwen Wang

(S) Jiuyin Cui

(S) Runan Xia

 

(V) Multiple Victims

Covina

San Gabriel

Covina

Rosemead

Alhambra

 

Chinese nationals              

 

 

40

33

42

63

32

 

 

Narrative:

 

 

 

 

On August 4th, 2016, a multi-agency team of investigators from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies concluded a six-month investigation and arrested five suspects for their roles in operating a large human trafficking ring encompassing nine California counties.

 

In February of 2016, members of the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Oxnard Police Department and the Ventura County District Attorney's Office conducted prostitution stings at local motels in Ventura County. The stings were aimed at targeting advertisements for sex found on the social website Backpage.com.  Following the stings, detectives identified a potential victim of human trafficking and uncovered evidence revealing a larger group was operating across the region. 

 

A task force was formed from local, state, and federal agencies to gather additional evidence. The investigation revealed a sophisticated human trafficking network responsible for trafficking women for the purpose of commercial sex.  The network was run much like a corporation and investigators identified five members of the organization.    

 

The head of the human trafficking ring was identified as Hsin Chieh 'Jerry' Wang.  Wang oversaw the organization and worked with a female named Defeng Hu.  Hu coordinated the transportation and lodging of the victims at various motels in nine California counties.  Hu was identified as the network's dispatcher and took calls from hundreds of men each month who were answering sexually explicit ads found on Backpage.com.  Hu negotiated sex with the men and directed them to motel rooms occupied by the victims.  The 'sex for money' transactions ranged from $100 to $160 dollars and proceeds from the crimes were laundered through as many as 50 bank accounts at nine financial institutions. Investigators obtained substantial evidence showing that Jerry Wang and Defeng Hu were responsible for running the overall network and benefiting from the proceeds. Investigators also determined that Jerry Wang's sister, Yiwen Wang, laundered the illicit proceeds from the commercial sex by investing in real estate.  Franchise Tax Board investigators determined that Hu and Yiwen Wang both failed to report the illicit income earned from the human trafficking ring on their state income taxes. 

 

Jiuyin Cui and Runan Xia were responsible for transporting women between the different motels in the nine California counties and for maintaining the motel rooms. They also provided the bare necessities for the victims, which included food, water and toiletries.

 

Detectives identified approximately twenty-eight victims in central and southern California. All of the victims were identified as Chinese women in their thirties and forties, who were in the country for a short time on what appeared to be legitimate visas.  After arriving in the country, some of the victims relinquished their passports to members of the human trafficking organization.  Most of the victims spoke little or no English and they were placed in motels and areas that were often unfamiliar to them.  Once placed in a motel, they rarely came out of their rooms for any reason.  The victims were expected to engage in commercial sex acts from early in the morning until late at night, every day, as directed by Hu.  During the investigation, some victims were found to have also been victims of physical abuse and robbery by commercial sex customers.  Hu compelled the women to continue providing commercial sex acts despite their repeated objections and requests to stop working.  The victims continuously incurred debt as they were forced to pay the drivers, Cui and Xia, for transportation between motels, motel room costs, food, and in some cases, the advertisements on the Internet placed by Wang and Hu. The victims were repeatedly subjected to verbal abuse by Hu.

 

On August 4th, investigators executed search warrants and arrested the five subjects named above at their homes and businesses. Bail for each suspect was set at $5,000,000 by the Ventura County Superior Court. At the same time as the arrests, investigators from the FBI, local law enforcement agencies and victim services advocates from local agencies contacted eight victims who were actively operating out of motels throughout central and southern California.  The victims were offered services, including food, shelter, transportation, clothing and medical services.  In addition to the arrests, investigators seized approximately $350,000 in cash at the various locations, froze bank accounts containing approximately $730,000, a car valued at $30,000 and froze three residential properties valued at approximately $1.8 million.  These assets were frozen because investigators believed they were profits from the criminal organization and as a result of money laundering.       

 

Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.  The Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Ventura County District Attorney's Office, Oxnard Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will continue to actively investigate potential cases of human trafficking occurring in Ventura County. 

 

For more information on human trafficking, go to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at https://traffickingresourcecenter.org/.

 

 

Prepared by:

Sergeant Eric Tennessen

 

News Release Date:

August 23, 2016

 

Media Follow-Up Contact:

Captain Garo Kuredjian, 805-797-6322

Sergeant Denise Sliva, 805-947-9258

 

 

Approved by:

Commander Bill Ayub

 







 

Ventura County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 reward for information, which leads to the arrest and criminal complaint against the person(s) responsible for this crime.  The caller may remain anonymous.  The call is not recorded.  Call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477).

###