TWENTY-ONE ADDITIONAL DEFENDANTS INDICTED FOR THEIR ROLES IN THAI SEX TRAFFICKING ENTERPRISE

Tens of millions of dollars in illicit sex trafficking proceeds laundered and smuggled by criminal organization coordinated takedown results in 20 arrests, recovery of victims from active houses of prostitution, seizures of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and numerous weapons

SAINT PAUL – A superseding indictment unsealed earlier today in Saint Paul, Minn., charges twenty-one members of an international sex trafficking ring for their roles in the organization. The eight count superseding indictment outlines sex trafficking and money laundering offenses stemming from a criminal enterprise that, through the use of overwhelming bondage debt, force, threats of force, fraud, and coercion, trafficked women from Thailand to cities across the United States.[1]

All of the charged defendants acted at high levels in the sophisticated criminal enterprise, which include 10 Thai nationals and 11 U.S. citizens. Twenty of the twenty-one charged defendants were arrested yesterday at various locations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Chicago. One defendant remains at large. During the coordinated takedown, law enforcement seized hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, cell phones and condoms as well as multiple weapons.

The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Gregory G. Brooker of the District of Minnesota, Special Agent in Charge Alex Khu of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) St. Paul Division, Special Agent in Charge Shea Jones of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Division’s St. Paul Field Office, and Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff Thomas J. Dart.

“This indictment outlines charges against twenty-one members of a multi-million dollar, modern day organized crime operation. This is a highly complex case that required years of hard work, steadfast determination and dedication to bring these defendants to justice and provide hope to the hundreds of victims,” said Acting United States Attorney Gregory Brooker. “With the cooperation and coordination of our law enforcement partners and the various resources they all bring to bear, we were able to significantly disrupt and dismantle this criminal organization from all angles.”

“HSI fully utilizes our authorities and resources to address the immediate needs of victims, as well as targeting the organizations victimizing them,” said Special Agent in Charge Alex Khu of HSI St. Paul. “These arrests, achieved through interagency cooperation, are a testament to our combined resolve to dismantling this organization and preventing future harm to potential victims of this heinous crime.”

“I’m proud of the comprehensive efforts that went into this investigation by my office and each of the agencies that participated,” said Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart. “The complexities of this organization represent the lengths to which criminals will go to profit off of human beings. This is an important reminder that sex trafficking and the associated buying, are not victimless crimes – this organization preyed and profited on vulnerable women. I am grateful that justice will be served.”

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said, “This operation sends a strong message to those who benefit financially from the exploitation of women. Your operations are not welcome here. If you engage in human trafficking, we will combine the public’s resources to find you, arrest you and ensure that you are not be allowed to retain your ill-gotten financial gains.”

“The special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation are committed to taking the profit away from these human traffickers,” stated Special Agent in Charge Shea Jones of the St. Paul Field Office IRS Criminal Investigation. “Today’s indictment sends a clear message that this activity will not be tolerated in our communities. As all financial transactions leave a trail, IRS Criminal Investigation special agents used their accounting expertise to analyze the complex financial transactions made by these criminals. Today’s indictment is a reminder that IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to following the money trail across the globe.”

According to the superseding indictment, which was returned under seal on May 16, 2017, from January 2009 through May 2017, the sophisticated criminal organization trafficked hundreds of women from Bangkok, Thailand, to various cities across the United States, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, and Austin. Once in the United States, the victims were placed in houses of prostitution where they were forced to work long hours – often all day, every day – having sex with strangers. The victims were isolated from the outside world; they often had no freedom of movement and were not allowed to leave the prostitution houses unless accompanied by a member of the criminal organization.

According to the superseding indictment, the victims, who were often from impoverished backgrounds and spoke little English, were promised access to a better life in the United States, in exchange for an exorbitant “bondage debt” of between $40,000 and $60,000. Before being transported to the United States, the organization would typically arrange to have professional-quality escort-style photographs taken of the victims, which would ultimately be sent to traffickers in the United States and used to advertise the victims for sex on websites like backpage.com and eros.com. The organization also encouraged victims to have breast implants in Thailand to make the victims “more appealing” to potential sex buyers in the United States. The cost of the cosmetic surgery was added to the victims’ already significant bondage debts.

According to the superseding indictment, the organization engaged in widespread visa fraud to facilitate the international transportation of the victims. Traffickers assisted the victims in obtaining fraudulent visas and travel documents by funding false bank accounts, creating fictitious backgrounds and occupations, and instructing the victims to enter into fraudulent marriages to increase the likelihood that their visa applications would be approved. Traffickers also coached the victims as to what to say during their visa interviews. While working to obtain visa documents, traffickers gathered personal information from the victims, including the location of the victims’ families in Thailand. This information was later used to threaten victims who became non-compliant or tried to flee the organization in the United States.

According to the superseding indictment, the defendants held various roles in the organization including traffickers, house bosses, money launderers, and facilitators. It was common for a member of the conspiracy to hold more than one role, over time or simultaneously, in order to maximize profits. The traffickers were the individuals who held the bondage debt of a victim until it was fully repaid or, in some instances, a victim’s bondage debt would be sold from one trafficker to another. The house bosses were the individuals who “owned” the houses of prostitution and ran the day-to-day operations at the house. The money launderers were responsible for the successful and continued operation of the enterprise by making bank accounts available, coordinating deposits and withdrawals of cash as well as the movement of money in and back to Thailand. The organization’s facilitators assisted with all manner of needs including renting prostitution houses, facilitating the transport of victims, assisting with money laundering and entering into fraudulent marriages with members of the conspiracy so those members could gain immigration status in the United States.

According to the superseding indictment, the organization dealt primarily in cash and engaged in rampant and sophisticated money laundering in order to promote, redistribute and conceal illegal profits. The organization used “funnel accounts” to launder and route cash from cities across the U.S. to the money launderers in Los Angeles. Upon entry to the U.S., victims were often escorted by a member of the organization to a bank and instructed to open an account in her own name; once the account was open a member of the organization took control of the account and then provide the account information to other co-conspirators to coordinate deposits throughout the United States.

According to the superseding indictment, the organization also engaged in bulk cash smuggling by physically transporting and mailing illegal sex trafficking proceeds to Thailand. The money launderers recruited other individuals to carry large volumes of cash on their person when traveling to Thailand as well as hide cash in items such as clothing and dolls. The organization used a hawala system, a method in which financial transactions are based on trust and family association, to transfer money to Thailand and elsewhere outside the United States. The result is the movement of funds from one location to another without the need to actually transfer or wire the funds. The criminal organization moved tens of millions of dollars in illegal proceeds from the United States to Thailand and elsewhere using this hawala-based system.

This indictment relates to the case United States v. Intarathong, et al., 16-cr-257 (DWF/TNL). To date, three of seventeen defendants in that matter have pleaded guilty.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS, Diplomatic Security Service, International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, St. Paul Police Department, and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office and the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force. We also want to acknowledge the support and assistance of United States Attorney’s Offices and law enforcement from across the country who came together to assist in executing a one-day, nationwide takedown of this international criminal organization.
The District of Minnesota is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies. Today’s charges represent our continued ACTeam mission—to take on and take down the most entrenched and sophisticated human trafficking organizations that would attempt to profit from human misery.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Laura M. Provinzino, Melinda A. Williams and Julie E. Allyn are prosecuting the case with the assistance of the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, the DOJ Office of International Affairs, and the DOJ Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

Defendant Information:
MICHAEL MORRIS, 63
Seal Beach, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Sex trafficking by use of force, fraud, and coercion, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

CHATARAK TAUFFLIEB, 51
San Jose, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Sex trafficking by use of force, fraud, and coercion, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

PEERACHET THIPBOONNGAM, 57
Los Angeles, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count
Unlicensed money transmitting business, 1 count

PAWINEE UNPRADIT, 44
Dallas, Texas
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

SAOWAPHA THINRAM, 43
Hutto, Texas
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

GREGORY ALLEN KIMMY, 36
Hutto, Texas
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

WILAIWAN PHIMKHALEE, 38
Chicago, Ill.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

KANYARAT CHAIWIRAT, 50
Chicago, Ill.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

PORNTHEP SUKPRASERT, 40
Huntington Beach, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Unlicensed money transmitting business, 1 count

MULCHULEE CHALERMSAKULRAT, 39
Huntington Beach, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count

BHUNNA WIN, 49
San Diego, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count

NATCHANOK YUVASUTA, 50
Los Angeles, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Unlicensed money transmitting business, 1 count

NATTAYA LEELARUNGRAYAB, 45
Los Angeles, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count

VEERAPON GHETTALAE, 55
Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Charges:
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count

THOUCHARIN RUTTANAMONGKONGUL, 34
Chicago, Ill.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

MATTHEW MINTZ, 25
Chicago, Ill.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

MOHIT TANDON, 37
Burr Ridge, Ill.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

RICHARD ALEXANDER, 52
DeKalb, Ill.
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

WARALEE WANLESS, 38
The Colony, Texas
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

TANAKRON PATRATH, 58
Houston, Texas
Charges:
Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, 1 count
Conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution, 1 count
Conspiracy to engage in money laundering, 1 count
Conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution, 1 count

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