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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
10/31/2008

Operators of Seattle-area brothel receive federal prison sentences

Lead defendant employed more than 100 women to work as prostitutes

SEATTLE - Two foreign nationals were sentenced today in federal court for operating a brothel in the Seattle area, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Yin Hoo Yap, 34, of Malaysia, was sentence to 27 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Kou Chwun Liu, 53, of China, worked for Yap and was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of supervised release. Both men pleaded guilty in July 2008 to conspiracy charges of transporting individuals for prostitution.

According to court documents, Yap operated a brothel where two or three Asian women would be brought in at any one time from various cities in the United States to work as prostitutes. He would arrange for their air travel to Seattle and transport them from the airport to the brothel. Investigators believe Yap was responsible for bringing more than 100 prostitutes to the area over three years.

Yap advertised the availability of the women on a website he maintained. Liu was an employee of Yap's and lived at the brothel, greeting customers and transporting the prostitutes. Liu was also responsible for collecting Yap's share of the fees that were paid to the prostitutes.

Yap operated the brothel in a variety of locations, frequently moving from one community to another to evade law enforcement. In June 2008, Yap's brothel was shut down in Newcastle, Wash.

"The defendants in this case not only exploited women for personal profit, they operated one of the brothels in a residential neighborhood within walking distance of an elementary school," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Seattle. "ICE will continue to use its resources and work closely with other law enforcement agencies to stop these types of reprehensible criminal enterprises."

As part of his plea agreement, Yap forfeited more than $50,000 cash and a 2004 Lexus SUV. Both men were living in the United States illegally and will likely be deported following their prison terms.

ICE was joined in this investigation by the Washington State Patrol Organized Crime Intelligence Unit and the King County Sheriff's Office.