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Sunday, 28 May 2017

9 SoCal residents arrested for participating in large-scale international sex trafficking ring

Veronica Rocha
Las Angeles Times

Federal authorities have accused nine Southern California residents of participating in a large-scale, international sex trafficking ring that abused and enslaved hundreds of Thai women who had been recruited with promises of a better life in the U.S.

The nine defendants were among 20 people arrested Wednesday in Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Austin, Houston and Chicago in connection with the sex trafficking and money laundering operation, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Minnesota.

An eight-count federal indictment unsealed Thursday charges Michael Morris, 63, of Seal Beach; Chatarak Taufflieb 51, of San Jose; Peerachet Thipboonngam, 57, of Los Angeles; Pornthep Sukprasert, 40, of Huntington Beach; Mulchulee Chalermsakulrat, 39, of Huntington Beach; Bhunna Win, 49, of San Diego; Natchanok Yuvasuta, 50, of Los Angeles; Nattaya Leelarungrayab, 45, of Los Angeles and Veerapon Ghettalae, 55, of Lake Elsinore.
Federal authorities said the defendants had high-level roles in the sophisticated, international criminal enterprise that forced women to engage in sex acts to financially benefit the organization. The ring operated from January 2009 to May 2017.

"The women did not have freedom of movement and, until they paid their bondage debts, were modern-day sex slaves," Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory Brooker said in the indictment.

Traffickers obtained fraudulent visas for the victims and often coached them on what to say during their visa interviews, federal authorities said. They collected information from the women and later used it to threaten them if they tried to flee.

The women were often poor and spoke little English, Brooker said. They were forced by traffickers into the sex trade, sent to brothels across the country and rotated from city to city.
They were isolated and forced to work all day and night to pay down outrageously high debts — often between $40,000 and $60,000. Until then, the organization owned the victims, he said.  

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