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02/01/2010

ICE arrests 3 in Somerton prostitution investigation

YUMA, Ariz. - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested three Korean women suspected of operating a house of prostitution in Somerton, Ariz. Friday, Jan. 29.

Won Sil Shim, 54, a Korean citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States, Muae Park, 53, a Korean citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States, and Hyun Joo Song, 31, a Korean citizen suspected of being in the United States illegally, were all arrested on Arizona state charges of prostitution and running a house of prostitution. Song is also facing federal charges related to immigration violations.

ICE opened a joint investigation with the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Somerton Police Department into the Smile Spa Massage business on Main Street in Somerton following citizen complaints related to prostitution. During the investigation, several undercover agents were offered sexual services in addition to the legitimate massages offered at the business.

"These arrests are a reflection of the success that comes when federal, state and local law enforcement agencies work together to target criminal enterprises in Arizona communities," said Kevin Jeter, assistant special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Yuma. "Running illicit prostitution rings disguised as massage parlors is a common tactic used by human trafficking organizations. While we don't yet have any evidence of human trafficking in this case, ICE is continuing to investigate the circumstances in which these women ended up prostituting themselves in Somerton."

"This is just another example of the positive working relationship between federal, state and local law enforcement and in this case the State Gang Task Force through GIITEM," said Commander Robert Ticer, DPS Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission. "This was a successful effort aimed at combating organized crime associated with illegal immigration."

"We're glad to work with all the agencies involved. This shows that by using all of our resources we can make our communities a safer place to work and live in," said Somerton Police Chief Terry Hollis.

All three suspects will be arraigned today in Somerton.