Flushing husband and wife charged with sex trafficking in Nassau County

Zhaowei Yin (left) and his wife Shuwen Ai (right) were arrested Thursday and later arraigned on charges including sex trafficking and promoting prostitution.
Photos courtesy of the Nassau County District Attorney’s office

A couple from Flushing found themselves in handcuffs after they were arrested for forcing two women to perform sexual acts on customers at massage parlors they owned in Nassau County.

Zhaowei Yin, 49, and his wife Shuwen Ai, 46, were arrested Thursday morning by Nassau County district attorney investigators and later arraigned on charges including sex trafficking, promoting prostitution, labor trafficking, and unauthorized practice under New York State Education Law.

According to Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, between May 2013 and the end of January 2014, the husband and wife duo hired two women responding to ads in Chines newspapers under the pretense that they would be performing massages.

However, they were then required to perform sexual services on male customers at two locations: Lucy’s Space at 300 Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead and Panda Foot Spa at 400 Franklin Ave. in Franklin Square. Both parlors are now closed.

During the investigation, it was discovered that the women would often be forced to sleep at the businesses. Yin and Ai never paid one of the victims for the time she worked at the parlor, and deducted wages from the other victim for occasional transportation home after work and for sleeping at the site, even if she was forced to stay there.

The couple allegedly also threatened one of the victims that if she failed to follow their demands, they would then post a naked photo of her on the Internet and in newspapers. They also threatened the victim, who is undocumented, that if she reported them to the police she would be deported, according to prosecutors.

In one case when one of the victims was allegedly subjected to physical violence from a customer, Yin and Ai forced her to continue to perform whatever services the customer asked for.

Both victims were arrested and charged during undercover operations by the Nassau County Police Department and later their cases were handled by the Human Trafficking Intervention Part of the Nassau County District Court.

After further investigation, it was found that the women had been forced to perform sexual acts and had become victims of sex and labor trafficking. This led to the charges against the victims to be dropped and the investigation into Yin and Ai began.

“Trafficked individuals like the women in this case are the victims of a modern-day form of slavery happening all around us in communities across the country,” Singas said. “This is what slavery looks like in 2015. Thanks to the hard work of prosecutors, DA investigators, and the Nassau County Police, we were able to identify, indict, and arrest suspected human traffickers right in our own backyard. We will continue to use every investigative tool and partnership available to us to find human traffickers and hold them accountable.”

Bail for the couple was set at $250,000 cash or bond and they are due back in court on Oct. 15. Yin and Ai face a maximum of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison if convicted of the highest charge.

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