A Chinese immigrant from Flushing, NY, will spend five years in federal prison this week as a plea agreement for her role in a prostitution ring that used ads in Chinese-language newspapers to get women to work as prostitutes whose services advertised on Craigslist and in the Boston Phoenix's "Female Escort" section, the US Attorney's office in Boston reports.
The women generally arrived at South Street Bus Station [sic] in Boston from New York and elsewhere around the country and were thereafter transported by the defendants to various apartments throughout Massachusetts where they then engaged in prostitution. Some of the women were not legally in the United States when they were harbored in the brothels. Some of the women were forced to work in the brothels.
According to the indictment against Hong Wei and her partners, they used threats of "serious harm" to get some women - some of whom were in the US illegally - to work for them in the Boston area, where they started up a network of brothels in 2004, in rented apartments in, among other locations, Allston, Quincy, Woburn, Stoneham and Wellesley (the Allston apartments were at 1258 Commonwealth Ave. and 11 Barrows St.).
In a sentencing memorandum, Wei's attorney's acknowledged:
WEI was the "boss" and controlled the organization. WEI answered the brothel telephones and directed male customers to the brothels. WEI then would call the women on their personal cell phones at the brothel and advise them that a customer was coming. WEI changed the women who worked in her brothels on the 3rd, 13th, and 23rd of each month.
The memorandum also describes how at least two women were browbeaten into working for the ring, including the case of a woman who broke up with her boyfriend and hopped on a bus to South Station - where she knew nobody:
Once at South Station, and having no place to stay, she was referred by a stranger to WEI. Within ten minutes of placing a call to WEI, WEI and co-defendant Jiang Ling Chen picked up NH. WEI offered NH a place to stay for $25 a day and when NH agreed, she was transported to 11 Essex Lane in Peabody. There were one or two other Asian females in the apartment, including SO, who did the cooking and cleaning. On her second day in the apartment, NH told WEI that she wanted to leave. WEI told NH that she could pay the rent by engaging in prostitution. When NH demanded to leave, WEI became angry at her and told her that she had to stay until another girl was found to replace her. NH was intimidated by WEI and Chen and felt that she had to stay at the brothel. NH speaks no English, had no family or friends in the area and was not in the United States legally.
The ring's payments of $13,125 to the Phoenix for ads in 2009 proved unable to keep the newspaper afloat.