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March 14, 2023Norfolk, VA, United StatesFinancial Crimes, Human Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI Norfolk investigation leads to 3 guilty pleas for money laundering, massage parlor prostitution

NORFOLK, Va. — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Norfolk resulted in three Virginians pleading guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering between Feb. 21 and March 3. Si Liu, 36, and her codefendants Ye Wang, 32, and Yang Gao, 33, conspired to move and conceal proceeds obtained through prostitution.

According the HSI Norfolk investigation, Gao, Wang and Liu worked as operators or managers of illicit, unregistered massage parlors located in Virginia Beach and Williamsburg that derived revenues from the prostitution of female employees. They recruited women online to work for them, and women employees in the massage parlors performed sex acts for customers in exchange for cash payments.

“Liu, Gao and Wang laundered the proceeds they received from running a prostitution ring fronting as a legitimate establishment,” said HSI Washington, D.C. acting Special Agent in Charge Derek W. Gordon. “Many people do not understand that there is a very sinister human trafficking element to many of these businesses. HSI will continue to investigate cases like this one to ensure the safety of our communities.”

Gao managed the day-to-day operations of the parlors and collected money obtained via commercial sex. Gao also transported women engaged in commercial sex and maintained the unlicensed massage parlors. Wang helped Gao operate the illicit commercial sex business.

Liu helped facilitate the exploitation of women engaged in commercial sex, collected proceeds from the illegal activity, managed the web-based advertising and encouraged women to perform sex acts by providing condoms and offering financial incentives.

Gao, Wang and Liu split the prostitution proceeds with the women engaged in prostitution. The three traveled to the massage parlors located in Virginia Beach and Williamsburg to collect prostitution proceeds and deposited a percentage of the profits into various bank accounts. Money was then transferred to other members of the larger enterprise through cash deliveries and via mobile banking.

Gao and Wang previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to engage in money laundering. Gao and Wang are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4. Liu is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 11. Each defendant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

This Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force investigation was conducted by HSI Norfolk with significant assistance from the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Virginia Beach Police Department and the Virginia State Police. The Hampton Roads Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration between federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and nongovernmental organizations working together to combat human trafficking in the Hampton Roads region.

Anyone with information regarding human trafficking is encouraged to provide their tips to law enforcement. Homeland Security Investigations has a nationwide tipline that members of the public can call to report what they know. You can reach HSI at 866-DHS-2423. The HSI tipline is manned 24 hours a day.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 03/14/2023