Three people have been arrested and charged in connection with running “high-end brothels” in the Boston area and Northern Virginia whose clients allegedly included military officers and elected officials, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced on Wednesday.
The charges allegedly stem from a multiyear investigation that began in the summer of 2020 and is ongoing. Prosecutors said the Massachusetts brothels were located in Cambridge and Watertown, and the Virginia locations were in Fairfax and Tysons, primarily with Asian women in both states.
The defendants are Han Lee, 41, of Cambridge, Mass.; Junmyung Lee, 30, of Dedham, Mass.; and James Lee, 68, of Torrance, Calif. All three were charged with conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000, according to the Justice Department.
Agents identified customers of the network “through surveillance, phone records, customer interviews, and other investigative methods,” according to the affidavit written by the investigating case agent working for Homeland Security Investigations.
“These customers spanned a wide array of different professional disciplines,” the case agent said in court documents. “Some of these professional disciplines included, but are not limited to, 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.”
The affidavit says the agent believes there are potentially “hundreds of yet to be identified customers.” The document also specified that the agent was not naming the individuals identified by investigators so far — but not for the purpose of protecting them.
“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,” the affidavit says.
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly leased apartments with rents as high as $3,664 a month, furnished them and maintained them as brothels. They also coordinated the airline travel and transportation of sex workers, the court filings said.
Court documents indicate the defendants used money orders to conceal the transfer of funds for rent in a way that intentionally did not trip anti-money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act alerts for suspicious money movement.
Appointments with the women were offered through a website for the Boston area and one for Northern Virginia, both of which advertised nude Asian models for professional photography, an affidavit filed on Tuesday said. Investigators say the businesses were used “as a front for prostitution.”
Potential clients were required to undergo a verification process that made them fill out a form that included their name, email address, phone number, employer and a reference, if they had one, the affidavit says. Prosecutors say that the defendants charged the customers approximately $350 to upwards of $600 per hour and made them pay in cash.
The affidavit says that investigators have interviewed about 20 customers in connection with the probe since 2020.
The lawyer for Han Lee declined to comment on the case. The attorney representing Junmyung Lee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The court documents did not list a lawyer for James Lee.