US says prostitution ring counted politicians, tech execs, lawyers as clients


BOSTON — US prosecutors on Wednesday charged three people with running a high-end brothel network out of apartment complexes in greater Boston and northern Virginia whose customers included elected officials, tech and pharmaceutical executives, lawyers, professors and military officers.

Federal prosecutors in Boston did not identify any of the “wealthy and well-connected clientele” that they say paid up to $600 per hour for sexual encounters with predominantly Asian women who were being exploited through sex trafficking.

The brothels’ alleged operators — Han Lee, 41, and Junmyung Lee, 30, of Massachusetts and James Lee, 68, of California — were arrested and charged with conspiring to coerce and entice women to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity.

Acting US Attorney Josh Levy said the probe was “just getting started” and that law enforcement was gathering more evidence after executing search warrants on locations in Massachusetts, Virginia and California.

Those searches included of active brothels and uncovered financial documents, cash and women believed to be engaging in prostitution, according to court records.

“We’re committed to working closely with our federal, state and local partners to hold accountable the people who both ran this ring and the people who fueled the demand for this ring,” Mr. Levy said at a press conference.

Han Lee and Junmyung Lee, who are both Korean, were ordered by a judge to be detained following a hearing in Massachusetts. Han Lee’s lawyer declined to comment. Other defense lawyers either did not respond to requests for comment or could not be identified.

According to charging documents, the defendants, led by Han Lee, used high-end apartment complexes as brothels in Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts, and Fairfax and Tysons, Virginia.

Two websites advertised appointments with Asian women, and customers underwent a vetting process that included providing their driver’s license photos and employers’ names, prosecutors said. The US government has seized those sites’ domains.

Authorities said they believed the brothel network had potentially hundreds of customers, who Levy said “often paid a monthly fee to be part of this illicit club.”

Customers included politicians, pharmaceutical and technology executives, doctors, military officers, professors, lawyers, business executives, scientists and accountants, prosecutors said. — Reuters

Neil Banzuelo

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