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Prostitution at a Premium

By A.J. Firstman | Last updated on

Two men and a woman were arrested in early November for allegedly owning, operating, and coordinating a series of high-end brothels in the greater Boston area and eastern Virginia. That alone isn't all that newsworthy – people have been running illegal brothels and prostitution rings since prostitution was first made illegal – but that isn't the most noteworthy part of the story.

What makes this story notable has less to do with the what (prostitution) than the where, the who, and the how.

High-Class Criminality

The establishments allegedly owned and operated by the suspects in the case weren't your average brothels. They weren't located in some back-alley flophouses or condemned motels, they allegedly operated out of high-end apartments located in the suburbs of big cities like Washington, D.C., and Boston. They didn't employ the proverbial women waiting for clients on street corners, they allegedly enticed and imported a steady stream of Asian women whose situations came right up to the edge of being considered victims of sex trafficking.

It gets even stranger when you look at the details of the case. Instead of relying on word of mouth to find clients, the brothels allegedly advertised their services on at least two different websites. The alleged advertisements listed the height, weight, and bust size of the women the clients could visit, including a variety of nude and non-nude images, as well as coded messages about their availability.

If that weren't enough, clients allegedly had to go through a somewhat extensive vetting process before they were allowed to make appointments with the women. Potential clients seeking verification allegedly had to provide their full names, email addresses, phone numbers, employers, and even references if they had any. The court filings even allege that the brothels maintained a TSA Pre-Check-like monthly subscription service that lets clients access the brothels' services without having to verify their identity each time.

These details alone should tell you that the defendants in the case allegedly ran a fairly impressive operation. They allegedly charged between $350 to $600 per hour (in cash) and laundered the proceeds of the operation by depositing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to their personal bank accounts and peer-to-peer transfers. They even allegedly purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of money orders (in values under the threshold that would trigger reporting and identification requirements) and used them to pay themselves and to pay for the rent and bills for the apartments they rented.

If you thought this was a lot already, wait until you hear about the most startling and newsworthy part of this story: the clientele they allegedly catered to.

High Rollers Only

According to a press release by the US Attorney's Office in the District of Massachusetts, the brothels' alleged clientele weren't your typical Johns. The investigation turned up a list of alleged clients including, but not limited to, "politicians, high tech and pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, scientists, and accountants. The investigation into the involvement of sex buyers is active and ongoing." It's unclear whether any of the men who allegedly patronized the brothels had been arrested or charged.

In other words, the three defendants allegedly set up an elaborate, multistate prostitution ring designed and priced for use by some of the most powerful men in and around Washington D.C., and Boston. These aren't guys you'd see driving down seedy streets and waving for women standing on corners. They're not exactly "fly the girls in on a private jet to party on Jeffrey's island" rich, but they're not exactly down on their luck, either.

Visiting illegal prostitutes is not considered good behavior in most circles, and the fact that some of the women may have been victims of sex trafficking doesn't exactly help matters. The lack of announced arrests is also concerning, as you'd think the authorities would go after the men who allegedly kept the brothels in business. A lot of the Johns may get off without much more than a warning. The defendants, however, are in a very different situation.

Crimes and Punishments

The affidavit filed by a Special Agent with the Department of Homeland Security lays out the potential charges facing the three suspects in the case.

  • Using a facility of interstate commerce in furtherance of prostitution offenses.
  • Transporting individuals in interstate or foreign commerce with the intent that such individuals engage in prostitution or other criminal sexual activity.
  • Persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing individuals to travel in interstate or foreign commerce to engage in prostitution or other criminal sexual activity.
  • Wire fraud.
  • Money laundering.
  • International money laundering transactions.
  • Structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements.
  • Conspiracy to commit the above offenses.

Even the charge of conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity can carry up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000 per charge. So unless the defendants' lawyers can cast enough doubt on the charges to convince a jury, all three will likely be going away for a long, long time.

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