MINEOLA, N.Y. –Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that three people who were arrested for coercing women into performing sex acts on customers in Nassau County massage parlors pleaded guilty for their roles in a cross-county sex trafficking ring.
Zhaowei Yin 49, and his wife Shuwen Ai, 47, both of Flushing pleaded guilty today before Acting Supreme Court Justice Terence Murphy to two counts of Sex Trafficking (a B felony) and two counts of Promoting Prostitution in the Second Degree (a C felony). The defendants are due back for sentencing on June 21. The NCDA is recommending that the husband and wife be sentenced to three to nine years in prison.
Li Fei Leng, 33, of Flushing, who managed the parlors, pleaded guilty to the same charges on Tuesday before Judge Murphy and is due back in court for sentencing on 20.
All three defendants waived their right to appeal and must now register as sex offenders.
“The victims in this case were sexually exploited, psychologically abused and held against their wills,” DA Singas said. “The defendants preyed on vulnerable women and, in one case, allowed a victim to be physically assaulted by a customer. The arrests and prosecution of these three defendants was the result a joint investigation with our partners in the Nassau County Police Department. We are working collaboratively with law enforcement in New York and beyond to break up these human trafficking rings and hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes.”
DA Singas said that between May 2013 and the end of January 2014, the defendants hired two women who responded to ads in Chinese-language newspapers under the guise that they would be expected to perform massages. The victims, however, were required to perform sexual services on male customers at two locations: Lucy’s Spa at 300 Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead and Panda Foot Spa at 400 Franklin Avenue in Franklin Square. Both locations are now closed.
Investigators found that the women were often forced to sleep at the businesses. The defendants never paid one victim for the time that she worked at the massage parlor and deducted wages from the other victim for occasional transportation home after work and for sleeping at the location, even when she was forced to stay there.
The defendants threatened one of the victims that if she failed to comply with their demands they would post a naked photograph of her on the Internet and in newspapers. The defendants also threatened the undocumented victim that if she reported them to the police she would be deported. When one of the victims was subjected to physical violence at the hands of a male customer, the defendants forced her to continue to perform the services the customer requested.
Both victims had been arrested and charged during undercover operations by the Nassau County Police Department, and their cases were accordingly handled in the Human Trafficking Intervention Part of Nassau County District Court. During further investigation by investigators and prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with members of the Nassau County Police Department Narcotics Vice Squad, it was discovered that the women had been coerced to perform sexual acts and had become the victims of sex and labor trafficking. The charges against the victims were subsequently dismissed and a wider investigation into their alleged traffickers was launched.
The pleas mark the first sex trafficking convictions of the NCDA’s Human Trafficking Unit, which was founded in 2015.
Christine Guida of DA Singas’ Special Victims Bureau is prosecuting the three cases. Leng is represented by Ming Li Chen, Esq. Yin is represented by James Galloshaw, Esq. and Ai is represented by Kevin O’Donnell, Esq.