The Justice Department announced charges on Wednesday against three people accused of running a “high-end brothel network” in the Washington and Boston suburbs and unveiled an investigation into potentially hundreds of high-profile clients who had paid for sexual services.
“They are doctors, they are lawyers, they are accountants, they are elected officials, they are executives at high-tech companies and pharmaceutical companies, they are military officers, government contractors, professors, scientists,” Joshua S. Levy, the acting U.S. attorney in Boston, said at a news conference Wednesday. “Pick a profession, they’re probably represented in this case.”
Prosecutors did not name any of the clients.
The prostitution scheme was run through at least two websites that advertised appointments with Asian women, one of which purported to be a nude modeling service for professional photographers, according to an affidavit from a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security filed in the U.S. District Court in Boston.
The three suspects, who were arrested, are Han Lee, 41, of Cambridge, Mass.; Junmyung Lee, 30, of Dedham, Mass.; and James Lee, 68, of Torrance, Calif.
They are accused of using “coercive tactics” to draw the women into providing sexual services, for which clients were charged about $350 to $600 per hour. The meetings took place in high-end apartments in well-off suburbs of Washington and Boston, including Fairfax and Tysons Corner in Virginia, and Cambridge and Watertown in Massachusetts. Some of the properties were leased in Mr. Han’s and Mr. Junmyung’s names, according to the affidavit from the homeland security agent.
“The commercial sex workers only had to show up, work for sex and get paid,” Special Agent Zachary Mitlitsky said in the affidavit. “All other aspects of recruiting and making appointments with customers and finding a location for the commercial sex to occur were taken care of by the prostitution network and the co-conspirators.”
Because of the prices for services, the upscale apartments and the professions of the clients, the agent surmised that the operations were high-end. He added that the women were often flown across state lines to engage in prostitution.
The defendants are accused of hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars they made through the illicit business in personal bank accounts and money orders. Mr. Junmyung, a student who reported no income on a rental application, was accused of purchasing a luxury car with proceeds from the brothels.
The women were showcased on the websites according to their height, weight and bust size along with seminude photos, according to the affidavit. Potential clients were required to provide their names, email addresses, phone numbers and information about their employers in an online form to verify their identity before being allowed to make an appointment by text message. The clients would then receive a “menu” of services and women.
The charges unveiled on Wednesday recalled previous allegations of an escort service run in the nation’s capital between 1993 and 2006 that was advertised as providing “legal high-end erotic fantasy” and ended the career of at least one high-profile official in Washington.