ATLANTA (AP) — Two Chinese women and a Malaysian man whom prosecutors say operated a brothel near Atlanta that lured women from around the U.S. to work as prostitutes have been sentenced to federal prison.
Court records show that 45-year-old Xiaohong Huang, 59-year-old Chan Kong Chow and 54-year-old Biyun Gong were sentenced Friday. Huang and Gong are from China, while Chow is from Malaysia.
"Brothels remain a blight in segments of our communities," U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak said in a news release Tuesday. "The prosecution of these defendants, the seizure of significant assets, and the dedication of law enforcement resources in targeting this long-running criminal scheme are a warning for others engaged in this conduct."
Huang, also known as Michelle and Jenny, operated a brothel at an apartment complex in Doraville from December 2005 through May 2017, while Chow and Gong managed the day-to-day operations, prosecutors said. The three lured women of Asian descent from across the U.S. to work as prostitutes, arranging for them to travel to Atlanta on commercial flights on a rotating basis roughly every 10 days, prosecutors said.
Huang advertised the brothel online and by word-of-mouth and used checking accounts to launder more than $150,000 in illegal proceeds from the brothel, prosecutors said.
The three pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to operate an interstate prostitution scheme involving money laundering.
Huang was sentenced Friday to serve two years and nine months and was ordered to forfeit a large home in Johns Creek, cash, high-end watches and designer purses. Chow, also known as Blake Wong, got one year and nine months, and Gong got one year and three months.
All three will be turned over to immigration authorities for deportation after completing their prison sentences, prosecutors said.
In court filings before the three were sentenced, their lawyers said their clients' actions were not as serious as prosecutors asserted.
A lawyer for Gong noted she had only arrived in the U.S. in 2015, long after the brothel began operating, and that she could most accurately be described as a cook, not someone with any management responsibility.
Chow's attorney said he had no decision making authority and took orders from Huang — doing tasks like driving the sex workers to and from the airport — during the two years he worked for her.
Huang's lawyer stressed that she didn't coerce any of the sex workers, saying the women would contact her when they were coming to Atlanta and she would arrange transportation to and from the airport and provide lodging and a place to perform sex acts. In exchange, she would get $40 of the $120 the women charged, her lawyer wrote, saying the sex workers were effectively independent contractors.
This story has corrected Chow's nationality. Prosecutors initially said Chow is Chinese, but he's Malaysian.