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Financial Crimes

Former massage parlor owner pleads guilty to prostitution, money laundering

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A woman originally from South Korea, now of Trinidad, Colo., pleaded guilty Thursday to transporting women from other states to perform sexual services for patrons of her massage parlor in Annandale, Va.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C., the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), with assistance from the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department.

Susan Lee Gross, also known as "Ju Mee Lee Gross," 46, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport women to engage in prostitution, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years. Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2013.

"Lee Gross went to great lengths to facilitate her multi-state prostitution ring; she had women transported to Peach Therapy in Annandale from various areas such as New York and New Jersey, and then she laundered the illicit profits earned by her criminal enterprise to hide her tracks," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of HSI Washington, D.C. "HSI is dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations operating in our communities."

"Peach Therapy was nothing but a front for a prostitution ring that recruited and transported women from several states, and the owner laundered the profits to conceal the illegal nature of her business," said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "This conviction is the result of an ongoing investigation into the sale of sexual services at northern Virginia massage parlors as part of my office's crackdown on sex trafficking in the region. We will continue to identify and prosecute criminal organizations operating illicit businesses in our community."

"Crimes of this magnitude are not victimless but rather a blight on any community, harming the citizens within it," said Rick A. Raven, special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation's Washington, D.C., field office. "Lee Gross's conspiring to conceal Peach Therapy's illegal proceeds contributed to damaging the overall economic strength of our country. IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to investigate individuals and entities whose underlying conduct revolves around illegal source income which ultimately threatens our nation's voluntary tax compliance system."

"Combating and reducing human trafficking-related crimes is a strategic imperative for the Department of Defense and the U.S. government," said John Wagner, NCIS special agent in charge. "This case demonstrates the effectiveness of law enforcement partnerships when conducting joint investigations."

In a statement of facts filed with her plea agreement, Lee Gross admitted that from February 2011 to May 2012 she was the owner of "Peach Therapy," a massage parlor located in Annandale that provided sexual services to customers. Customers would pay a "house fee" of $60 to $80, plus tips that ranged from $20 to $400 for various sex acts. Lee Gross kept a portion of the house fee and whatever tips she earned herself, while the workers kept their own tips and received a portion of the house fee. To hide the unlawful nature of the business, Lee Gross laundered the proceeds of the prostitution activities by depositing funds in various bank accounts and a safe deposit box. As part of her plea agreement, Lee Gross agreed to the entry of a personal money judgment of $248,409, which represents proceeds derived from the conspiracy to transport women for prostitution.

The women who worked at Peach Therapy generally were from South Korea and some travelled to work at massage parlors in various states. Lee Gross induced a number of the women to travel to Virginia from New York and New Jersey, among other places, for the purposes of working as prostitutes at Peach Therapy. Lee Gross advertised Peach Therapy on Craigslist.com, Backpage.com, EroticMP.com, USASexGuide.com, and RubMaps.com. Most of the customers interviewed by federal agents were married, and customers of Peach Therapy included military personnel, a local pastor and a gynecologist.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Frank is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.