Eight charged in Flushing-based sex trafficking enterprise: Feds

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Federal agents arrested eight members of a Flushing-based national sex trafficking and prostitution ring Tuesday morning.

A 20-count indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court charging them with racketeering, sex trafficking, Hobbs Act robbery and violent assaults. While the criminal enterprise was based in Queens, they carried out crimes across the country including Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Oregon and Texas, among other states.

“As alleged, the defendants targeted vulnerable women for sex trafficking, and brutally assaulted the victims to enforce loyalty to the criminal enterprise,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “Human beings are not property, and the victims in this case, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be free from violence and coerced sexual activity. It is our hope that today’s arrests will bring them some measure of justice for the horror they have endured. This case is another example of our office’s longstanding commitment to bringing to justice sex trafficking organizations that exploit and dehumanize victims for financial gain.”

As set forth in court filings, between April 2019 and September 2021, the defendants participated in a violent and organized racketeering enterprise, which operated lucrative prostitution businesses throughout the United States. The organization recruited women, most of whom were from China and lacked legal status in the U.S. The victims were sometimes required to provide copies of their identification documents so that the defendants could maintain even more control over them.

The enterprise arranged for the women to travel from New York to locations across the country, stay in hotels and enterprise-operated apartments for weeks at a time and engage in commercial sex. Members and associates of the organization collected money from the women and the organization then used those illicit proceeds to promote its sex trafficking and interstate prostitution activities and enrich its members.

“Our job is to ensure that anyone who would seek to profit through the abuse and exploitation of another human being be brought to justice swiftly and successfully,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell said. “Today’s charges also further affirm the NYPD’s unwavering commitment to protecting survivors of sex trafficking.”

As alleged, between Jan. 8, 2020, to Sept. 1, 2021, members and associates of the enterprise directed and conducted more than 15 violent assaults of women across five states. The victims were Chinese women who the organization believed were providing commercial sex services on their own or for rival organizations. By committing these violent assaults, members of the organization sought to enforce discipline and believed their conduct would not be prosecuted because the victims were not U.S. citizens and were engaged in commercial sex work.

Members and associates of the organization would direct individuals to pretend to be johns to gain access to their hotel rooms and, once inside, would restrain the women with zip-ties, beat them with hammers, bats and other blunt objects, and rob them. Members of the organization often encouraged increasingly severe beatings of the victims if the initial attack did not sufficiently injure them.

In one phone message that was recovered by law enforcement, a member instructed the enforcer, “Beat [her] to death tomorrow. If she dares fight back, beat her more viciously. Get some results from the beating. Can’t waste the money.”

In another recovered chat, a member advised, “One person choke her by the throat, the other person strike her four limbs to death. Definitely don’t make a sound. Beat her to the point where she can’t fight back.”

The men arrested in Flushing include Siyan Chen, 32, Siyu “Ban Ban” Chen, 24, Bo Jiang, 26, Rong Rong Xu, 29, and Jiarun Yan, 28, who are each facing maximum terms of life in prison. Carlos Curry, 41, and Zerong Tang, 24, are facing maximum terms of 20 years in prison, according to court documents.

“The conduct alleged today spells out years of abuse inflicted upon vulnerable women on behalf of those who orchestrated this nationwide sex trafficking and prostitution enterprise,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said. “Victims in this case should know that the FBI’s Joint Asian Criminal Enterprise Task Force won’t tolerate the actions of those who offer the sexual activities of others in exchange for payment. If you’re a victim or have information to provide, we want to hear from you, regardless of your immigration status. Call us at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.”