Federal officials today announced the arrest of two Korean nationals and a Korean-American on charges they ran a series of brothels in newer high-end apartments both here and in northern Virginia, following an investigation that began in 2020 that involved stake-outs, phone surveillance, rooting through trash and interviews with customers.
Those customers, who signed up for specific women and specific sexual practices via online forms and menus included "politicians, pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, business executives, technology company executives, scientists, accountants, retail employees, and students" according to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case, unsealed this week in US District Court in Boston.
Although the affidavit describes interviews with some of the customers, none were named.
I do not do this for purposes of maintaining their anonymity, but instead do so because our investigation into their involvement in prostitution is active and ongoing.
Han "Hana" Lee, of Cambridge, Junmyung Lee, 30, of Dedham and James Lee, 68, of Torrance, CA were charged with conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
Among the apartments they allegedly rented were newer units in complexes on 90 Fawcett St. and 80 Cambridgepark Dr. near the Alewife T stop in Cambridge, 66 Bond St. near the Arsenal Yards mall in Watertown and 71 Legacy Blvd. near Legacy Place in Dedham.
As part of their efforts to make tracking them harder - which the FBI says the failed at - they typically paid their monthly rents with USPS or Western Union money orders.
Customers would first pay $119 for a six-month membership in an online-ID system catering to brothels, then would log on at a specific site for the Boston-area or northern Virginia brothels. After selecting from a rotating selection of women, they would then get a text message with fees for different types of amenities - all of which included free before and after showers, according to the affidavit - which says most customers availed themselves of the post-sex shower and which explains some of the terms:
I am aware that the reference above to "BB" is a term in the prostitution industry that refers to sex without a condom, as evidenced by the Boston Brothel Phone clarifying in its subsequent text of "(BB = without CD"). I am also aware that "GFE" refers to "GirlFriend Experience" which provides a more intimate experience and blurs the boundaries between a financial transaction and a romantic relationship. Generally speaking, when hen the customers arrived at the apartment unit, they did not knock; the door was opened by an Asian female inside who was expecting them. Typically, the Asian female who opened the door was the individual they made the appointment to meet. The customers provided a cash payment (in an amount confirmed in an earlier text message with the brothel phone, usually based on the duration and type of service) to the Asian female in the apartment. The customers removed their shoes and were escorted by the Asian female to the bedroom, where the customers undressed, and were accompanied into an attached bathroom. There, they were offered to use mouthwash; they were offered a shower with or without the Asian female; and they then returned to the bedroom to engage in sex with that female using a condom that she provided.
Based on interviews, the customers typically spent between $350 and $600 per session - which the affidavit states is "a premium price compared to standard rates for commercial sex being offered in the area.
The affidavit continues that while the working women were not beaten or physically threatened, the three still used a number of techniques to keep them in line once they flew into Boston and were ferried to one of the locations:
Some of the tactics include, but are not limited to, delivering food to females so they do not have to exit the building and spend time away from the apartment, ensuring the unit is prepared before the arrival of a female, and assisting females with their luggage into the brothel units, and subsequently locking the door behind them after exiting. Specifically, on January 3, 2023, HAN was observed via a publicly accessible surveillance camera assisting a female into 90 Fawcett Street, Unit 435 (Target Location #5). After shutting the door, HAN locked the door behind her before departing. I believe HAN utilized this tactic so that the commercial sex providers felt that they had to stay in the unit to perform sex acts for cash on behalf of the prostitution network.
Similarly, on October 23, 2023, agents stopped a commercial sex customer who was visiting 66 Bond St, Watertown, MA, that is, Target Location 7. At this time, I believe JUNMYUNG to be the holder of the Boston Brothel Phone, which the customer was communicating with to set up date. Agents reviewed the messages between the customer and the Boston Brothel Phone and observed the following text message: "Only GFE Services, No BB Services!! Do Not Share with her that we are offerings [sic] Extra Services!!" I believe this message to mean that the services offered are predetermined, and not subject to negotiation by the commercial sex worker. This message is expressly provided to customers, presumably without the knowledge of the female, in order to keep her out of the negotiations for the price of sex.
The affidavit describes the rotating selection of women - who would often fly between Boston and northern Virginia:
The women available for sale on the website are updated frequently. For example, on January 15, 2023, the website contained measurements for and nude and/or semi-nude photographs of "Dana," "Vera," "Roya," and "Minky." On June 3, 2023, the website contained measurements for and nude and/or semi-nude photographs of "Dana," "Gisella," "Minhee," and "Tiki." On October 4, 2023, the website contained measurements for and nude and/or semi-nude photographs of "LA Sera," "East Rose," "Jiwoo," and "Phila."
The affidavit continues this was not so much a control measure as good business:
Having a frequent rotation of females keeps demand, and therefore profits, high because new commercial sex workers provide a new experience for the sex buyer.
Investigators used a variety of techniques to track the three and what they were up to, and got some help from Cambridge Police:
For example, on December 6, 2022, HAN was observed leaving her residence (Target Location 1) and walking her three dogs to 90 Fawcett Street, Unit 109 (Target Location 4). On January 3, 2023, at approximately 10:54 a.m., video surveillance at 90 Fawcett in a publicly accessible hallway showed HAN approach Unit 435 (Target Location 5) carrying a suitcase. An unknown Asian female was walking behind her. HAN opened the door to Target Location 5 utilizing a key and led the Asian female inside. At approximately 12:39 p.m., HAN exited Target Location 5, shut the door behind her, and used a key to lock the door from the outside. I believe the unknown Asian female remained inside the unit. HAN subsequently departed. On January 4, 2023, at approximately 5:25 p.m., agents conducting surveillance at 90 Fawcett Street observed an Asian female leave 90 Fawcett Street. Approximately ten minutes later at 5:35 p.m., agents observed this same Asian female enter a nearby animal hospital and meet up with HAN and HAN's three dogs. At around 5:51 p.m., a Cambridge Police officer approached HAN and the female to confirm their identifications. HAN provided her Korean passport bearing her name and photograph. The unknown female was identified as well.
At around 6:30 p.m., agents observed a different Asian female exit Unit #435 of 90 Fawcett Street (Target Location 5) and discard a bag of trash. Investigators located the same trash bag at the bottom of the trash chute on the first floor. Agents conducted a trash pull of the discarded bag which revealed, among other things, an H-Mart grocery store receipt in an amount over $200 and a JetBlue Airlines boarding pass for Flight 688 from LAX to BOS dated January 2, 2023 for an Asian female passenger, and a baggage receipt sticker for the same individual. I believe this Asian female traveled from Los Angeles to Boston to engage in prostitution on behalf of Boston Top Ten's prostitution business. I further believe that she was enticed to travel from Los Angeles to Boston because all other aspects of the commercial sex service were provided to her. These aspects include, but are not limited to, room and board, the discrete location of a high-end apartment complex where she is to engage in commercial sex for a fee, food and grocery delivery, advertisements posted to a clientele base that communicates directly with the facilitator without the commercial sex worker having to communicate with customers, and cash payments for the sex at a higher rate.
The affidavit describes Han Lee as a Korean national who came here on a tourist visa in 2014, then never left, although she applied for permanent residence in 2019 after allegedly marrying an American. She lists the Cambridgepark Drive location as her home address. Jummyoung Lee, who lists the Dedham location as his address, came here in 2018 on a student visa, ostensibly to attend a the Computer Systems Institute, which offers classes in Brighton and Charlestown.