SEATTLE – A federal grand jury has indicted the owner and seven other individuals linked to a local Korean nightclub for allegedly operating an interstate prostitution scheme involving Asian women, many recruited overseas, who worked as "hostesses" at the club to repay their travel and living expenses, announced U. S Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
According to court documents filed in the case, the defendants sought Korean females to work as "bar girls" at The Blue Moon, a Korean "room salon" in Federal Way, Wash., where the women were expected to entertain male clients and set up subsequent meetings for paid sex. The 12-count indictment, handed down Wednesday, charges the defendants with a variety of violations, including conspiracy to commit money laundering, visa fraud, harboring illegal aliens, bribery and transportation in furtherance of prostitution. The charges are the result of a two-year multi-agency probe spearheaded by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
"The organizers of this criminal scheme exploited vulnerable young women to satisfy their greed," said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. "They also sought to protect their business by offering bribes to law enforcement."
"Criminal ventures like this degrade the quality of life in our neighborhoods, as well as the women involved," said Brad Bench, acting special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Seattle. "ICE will continue to work closely with federal prosecutors and our other law enforcement partners to attack and dismantle these types of enterprises that prey on the vulnerable and often bring other criminal activity into our area."
Six of the individuals charged in the investigation were taken into custody Thursday morning by ICE HSI agents in the Seattle area. They made their initial appearances in federal court Thursday afternoon. They are:
- Chang Young Kim, 58, of Milton, Wash., the owner of The Blue Moon;
- Yeun Jeong Mun, 35, of Milton, Wash., Kim's wife, who allegedly served as a former madam at The Blue Moon;
- Miyoung Roberts, 40, of Federal Way, Wash., allegedly serves as the current madam at The Blue Moon;
- Jung San So, 55, of Seattle, current manager of The Blue Moon;
- Raymond Jung, 51, of Federal Way, Wash., leased apartments where hostesses were allegedly housed; and
- Kwang Frank Lee, 57, of Federal Way, Wash., allegedly provided money to finance a fraudulent marriage tied to the scheme.
All six defendants were ordered held without bond pending detention hearings. Kim's detention hearing is set for Jan. 23. The other five defendants are due back in court Jan. 18.
The remaining two suspects are still being sought. They are:
- Sung Hee Han, 40, of Federal Way, Wash., allegedly serves as an assistant madam at The Blue Moon; and
- Hee Jae Cho, 40, of Federal Way, Wash., former manager of the nightclub, who also allegedly provided transportation for the hostesses.
Investigators believe Cho may currently be in the Los Angeles area and are asking for anyone with information regarding his whereabouts to contact ICE's tip line at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or complete ICE's online tip form.
In addition to the other charges, defendant Kim is also facing five criminal counts involving $15,000 in bribes he allegedly paid an undercover officer in the case. In exchange, The Blue Moon's owner allegedly wanted advance notice of law enforcement inspections at the nightclub and cooperation from immigration authorities to allow the undocumented Korean women to enter the country.
As part of Thursday's enforcement action, ICE HSI agents also executed search warrants at The Blue Moon and several residences in the area. ICE HSI officials emphasize the case is ongoing and they are pursuing numerous additional leads, including allegations that some of The Blue Moon's "hostesses" may have been transported to Korean nightclubs outside the state.
The probe into the sex trafficking allegations began in Nov. 2009 after ICE HSI received a lead from detectives at the Seattle Police Department who were investigating an unrelated embezzlement scheme.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
ICE HSI worked closely on the case with the Washington State Liquor Control Board. ICE HSI also received substantial assistance from several other agencies, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Internal Revenue Service; the FBI; and the Federal Way, Seattle, Lakewood and Tacoma police departments. Additionally, ICE HSI Seattle-based agents are coordinating on the investigation with ICE's attaché office in South Korea.