Five women accused of running massage parlors as fronts for prostitution were convicted of conspiracy Friday in a trial that focused on a far-flung sex industry that brought Korean women to the United States to work as prostitutes along the East Coast.
Jury Convicts Massage Parlor Owners in Prostitution Ring
The women can expect to spend up to three years in prison after being convicted of conspiring to transport women across state or international lines so they can engage in prostitution, a prosecutor said.
Several of the women were found not guilty of two other charges, including one that alleged that some of them used threats to force the women to work. Lawyers for the women had claimed female masseuses sometimes performed sex acts without the knowledge of the parlor owners.
After the verdict had been read and the jurors left the room, U.S. District Judge Alvin E. Hellerstein said the prostitutes described by the government in the case as victims "clearly were victims, but (were) victims of circumstance and choice rather than anything the defendants did."
Susan Gail Kellman, another defense lawyer, said the judge's comment opened the door for the lawyers to ask for leniency at sentencing.
"At the end of the day, these victims were raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars," she said of the prostitutes. "They were prostitutes because they wanted to be prostitutes."
She said the government prosecuted the owners of the massage parlors while failing to prosecute prostitutes who had lied to enter the country, sometimes engaged in false marriages to win citizenship and had committed tax fraud by failing to report their income.
"The quote-unquote victims were entrepreneurs," she said.