NATIONWIDE STING OPERATION TARGETS ILLEGAL ASIAN BROTHELS, SIX INDICTED FOR RACKETEERING
PORTLAND, Ore.—A federal grand jury in Oregon has returned two indictments charging six people with running sex trafficking organizations operating in the U.S., Canada and Australia. The indictments were unsealed today following a series of arrests by FBI Portland’s Child Exploitation Task Force (CETF) resulting from a multi-district takedown operation on Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
The FBI partnered with local law enforcement agencies in more than a dozen cities across the nation to coordinate sting operations targeting the organizations operated by defendants under indictment in Oregon, along with other Asian sex trafficking networks. As part of the takedown operation, the FBI seized the primary website used by one of the organizations, www.supermatchescort.com, and about 500 other associated domains, including 25 location-specific sub-sites.
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 non-profits to ensure the victims have access to social, medical and legal services.
Zongtao Chen aka Mark Chen, 46, of Toronto, Canada; Weixuan Zhou aka Marco Zhou, 37, of Guangzhou, China; Yan Wang aka Sarah Wang, 33, of Temecula, California; Chaodan Wang, 32, of Beaverton, Oregon; and Ting Fu, 35, of Beaverton, Oregon, are charged with conspiracy and use of interstate facilities to promote, manage, establish, carry on or facilitate a racketeering enterprise. In a separate indictment, Hui Ling Sun, 40 of Portland, is charged with using interstate facilities to promote, manage, establish, carry on or facilitate a racketeering enterprise.
“Protecting vulnerable foreign nationals from criminal traffickers seeking to exploit them for profit is a critically important law enforcement mission. Trafficking adults for sex can at times be overlooked by our society because some believe the adult victims have a choice. This notion is false. These victims are powerless and often thousands of miles away from their home, native language and personal connections who might help them escape. We have always and will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who exploit vulnerable victims,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
“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. In many cases, these women lack the language skills and understanding of American civil rights to ask for help or assistance from law enforcement. For that reason, we need community members who suspect such illegal activity to come forward to help us identify these instances of human trafficking so we can recover the victims and provide them the social, medical and legal services they need,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
According to the indictments, Mark Chen headed a criminal enterprise that recruited women, primarily from China, to travel to the U.S. and elsewhere to engage in prostitution and other sex trafficking activities. Within the cities the organization was operating, a “boss” would oversee and manage a local brothel in a hotel or apartment complex. Customers seeking to engage in acts of illegal prostitution would call a number listed on www.supermatchescort.com or related websites, or send a message by text, email, or WeChat, an encrypted internet messaging service based in China. The organization employed dispatchers who would receive incoming requests from potential customers to set up “dates.” The dispatchers would coordinate and schedule the “dates” with women working at the various brothels.
Dispatchers used a computer program to schedule and track all of the prostitution dates. This computer program had a customer database that logged more than 30,000 customer phone numbers with details from previous dates. In Oregon, defendant Zongtao “Mark” Chen promoted illegal prostitution activities that occurred at brothels in Portland, Tigard and Beaverton.
Hui Ling Sun made her initial appearances in federal court in Portland on January 15, 2019 and was detained pending trial. Ting Fu is expected to appear in Portland today. Yan Wang, arrested by the FBI’s Los Angeles Division, made an appearance before a magistrate judge in the Central District of California on January 15, 2019. The Toronto Police Service Human Trafficking Enforcement Team and Fugitive Squad have provisionally arrested Chen in Canada with a view towards extradition. Investigators believe Weixuan Zhou is in China and Chaodan Wang’s location is unknown.
Anyone with information on these investigations or who would like to report a federal crime may contact the nearest FBI office or submit information online at https://tips.fbi.gov.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The FBI Portland’s CETF investigated this case with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents in Omaha, Nebraska. The Toronto Police Service, which maintained a parallel investigation, also provided assistance. CETF member organizations who participated in the takedown include Portland Police Bureau, Beaverton Police Department, Tigard Police Department and Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.
The FBI CETF conducts sexual exploitation investigations—many of them undercover—in coordination with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The CETF is committed to locating and arresting those who prey on children as well as recovering victims of sex trafficking and child exploitation.
The National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) assisted in the seizure of the websites related to the Chen investigation. The NCFTA, established in 2002, is a nonprofit partnership between private industry, government and academia for the sole purpose of providing a neutral, trusted environment that enables two-way collaboration and cooperation to identify, mitigate and disrupt cybercrime.
Scott Kerin and Julia Jarrett, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon, are prosecuting the case.
The National Cyber Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) assisted in the seizure of the websites related to the Chen investigation.