NASSAU COUNTY, NY – A couple from Queens and massage parlor manager have pleaded guilty in a “cross-county sex trafficking ring” after two women were forced to perform lewd acts on customers for several months, the Nassau County District Attorney said Friday.
Zhaowei Yin 49, and his wife Shuwen Ai, 47, of Flushing, pleaded guilty on Friday to two counts of sex trafficking, a felony, and two counts of promoting prostitution in the second degree.
Parlor manager Li Fei Leng, a 33-year-old also from Flushing, pleaded guilty to the same charges Tuesday.
The alleged sex-trafficking ring came to light after two women were arrested during an undercover operation by local police, the DA stated in a news release.
Investigators later learned the two women were victims of sex and labor trafficking, and charges against them were dismissed
The victims were first hired by the defendants after responding to ads in Chinese-language newspapers “under the guise that they would be expected to perform massages,” DA Madeline Singas said.
Instead, the victims were required to perform sexual services for customers at two locations between May 2013 to January 2014.
The locations — Lucy’s Spa at 300 Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead and Panda Foot Spa at 400 Franklin Avenue in Franklin Square — have since closed.
“The victims in this case were sexually exploited, psychologically abused and held against their wills,” Singas said. “The defendants preyed on vulnerable women and, in one case, allowed a victim to be physically assaulted by a customer.”
After the abuse, the defendants forced the victim to continue performing, the DA stated.
The women were often forced to sleep at the business, one was never paid, and wages were deducted from the other for transportation costs and for sleeping at the location, according to investigators.
The defendants also threatened the women if they went to authorities.
One woman was told naked photographs of her would be posted on the Internet and newspapers, and the undocumented victim believed she would be deported.
All three defendants have waved their right to appeal and will need to register as sex offenders.
Yin and Ai are due back in court on June 21, and Leng is due back June 20.
If you know anyone who is being exploited, you can contact The Garden of Hope. The organization supports Chinese women who have been victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, often as a result of their immigrant status and inability to speak English. For more help combatting trafficking in NYC, see the National Organization for Women.