PLANO, Texas (AP) — A man is accused of operating nearly a dozen brothels that masqueraded as massage parlors in three North Texas counties as part of a multistate prostitution ring generating more than $1 million since 2010.
A federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment against 11 people, including eight who are in custody, U.S. Attorney Malcolm Bales said at a news conference Wednesday. Twelve others taken into custody face state charges in Plano and Dallas. In addition to arresting 20 people, authorities shut down nine storefronts posing as massage parlors and raided one residence in Dallas County.
The indictment alleges that the ring also used apartments and homes rented in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. The brothel locations, some promising an "Asian Fantasy," were advertised online and in a newspaper. The prostitutes were transported among the North Texas locations as well as from California, Nevada and Georgia, according to the indictment.
Most of the women involved came from China or other Asian countries, according to authorities. Bales said investigators have found no evidence that the ring involved human trafficking or children.
The indictment also alleges that Quyen Thuc Ha, also known as Tony Ha, paid $305,000 in multiple bribery payments to a detective in Dallas and another in Plano since 2011, believing they were protecting his brothels from police enforcement. Instead, the officers were working undercover, recording the transactions and turning the payments over to federal authorities. The federal indictments allege that Ha managed his brothels with defendants Kim Sey "Tony" Lau and Li Yan Zhou.
The investigation, known as Operation Flaming Dragon, began more than two years ago after Plano residents complained to police of suspicious behavior at certain massage parlors, said Chief Greg Rushin.