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Key figures in prostitution and money laundering scheme sentenced

SEATTLE - The owners and operators of six massage parlors and a legal brothel were sentenced to 16 months in prison and two years of supervised release, following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) into prostitution and money laundering.

Tham Nguyen, 49, and Carl Hencmann, 66, both of Lodi, Calif, will also forfeit $50,000 to the government as part of their sentence. In September 2010, Nguyen pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering and Hencmann pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to transport individuals in furtherance of prostitution. A third defendant, Suong Tran, 51, of Burien, Wash., pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and was sentenced in December 2010, to time served for his role in the scheme.

According to court documents in the case, Nguyen and Hencmann admitted that beginning in 2007 and continuing until April 21, 2010, they operated three brothels in King County, Wash., under the guise of providing sauna and massage services. Each of the businesses employed Asian females who traveled from out of state to work at the brothels and provide sex services to customers for a fee, generating substantial profits for the owners.

Tran acknowledged that he was employed by these businesses and assisted in the day-to-day operations. Despite the fact that he knew women were traveling from out of state to provide sex for a fee, he failed to report this crime to law enforcement.

In addition, Hencmann admits that on August 23, 2008, a female who was licensed to work legally as a prostitute at a legal brothel he owned in Nevada traveled from Las Vegas to Seattle for the purpose of working as a prostitute at one of his businesses here. Her plane ticket was purchased using a credit/debit card that belonged to an unnamed co-conspirator in the case.

"The defendants in this case sought to profit from an illegal scheme based on the exploitation of women," said Leigh Winchell, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Seattle. "While we can't undo the injustices and misery these women experienced, those who committed these crimes have been prosecuted and sentenced for their actions."

In April 2010, HSI special agents and other law enforcement authorities executed federal search warrants at seven locations, which were owned or operated by the defendants. The locations included a business and a residence in Burien; and businesses in Kirkland, Wash.; Auburn, Wash., Sacramento, Calif.; Lodi, Calif.; and Elko, Nev.

HSI was joined in this investigation by sheriff's departments in King County, Wash., and Sacramento County, Calif.; as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the police departments in Seattle, Auburn, Burien, Kirkland, Lodi, and Elko.