A Boston Police SUV.
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A network of “sophisticated” high-end brothels in greater Boston and eastern Virginia provided sex for pay to “elected officials, high tech and pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors,” and others, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Three people were arrested in connection with operating the pricey sex shops, which required “interested sex buyers” to provide employer information and references before booking sessions with prostitutes, authorities said.
The brothels charged customers about $350 to “upwards of $600 per hour depending on the services and were paid in cash,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts, which is prosecuting the defendants.
The appointments with sex workers allegedly took place in “high-end apartment complexes” where the rent was as much as $3,664, authorities said.
The brothels, which began operating around July 2020, were located in Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts, as well as in Fairfax and Tysons, Virginia.
The Virginia locations are close to Washington, D.C., the U.S. capital, and are located in an area that is rife with government contractors, many of whom have government security clearances.
The Boston area is home to many pharmaceutical and tech firms, as well as top financial services and law firms, as well as leading American universities.
“The investigation into the involvement of sex buyers is active and ongoing,” the office said.
In addition to politicians and military brass, business executives and government contractors, customers included “lawyers, scientists and accountants.”
About 20 “sex buyers” were interviewed by the investigators as part of a multi-year probe of the network, according to a criminal complaint.
“I believe there are potentially hundreds of yet to be identified customers,” a Department of Homeland Security special agent wrote in the complaint.
The complaint suggests that the investigation began in 2020, when a confidential source who was awaiting sentencing on then-pending federal criminal charges provided information to authorities about the network of brothels.
Charged in the case were two Massachusetts residents, Han “Hana” Lee, 41, and 30-year-old Junmyung Lee, as well as James Lee, a 68-year-old who lives in the Los Angeles area.
Each was charged with conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity.
“It is alleged that the defendants collectively established the infrastructure for brothels in multiple states which they used to persuade, induce and entice women – primarily Asian women – to travel to Massachusetts and Virginia to engage in prostitution,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
The criminal complaint says that between December 2019 and October this year, Han “has deposited just under $795,000 of cash into her personal Bank of America bank accounts, while also utilizing another approximately $109,000 in cash to make payments against her Bank of America credit card account, which she utilizes regularly for travel related purchases and other expenses associated with brothel operations.”
During the same time period, Junmyung, who is a student, “has deposited just under $194,000 cash into his personal Bank of America account, while also utilizing another $47,305 in cash to make payments against his Bank of America credit card account,” the complaint said.
Two websites used to advertise services by prostitutes who worked at the brothels include nude photos of women, as well as their physical dimensions.
“Here to serve our wonderful Boston friends,” one of the websites said, according to an image viewed by CNBC.
“Each website allegedly described a verification process that interested sex buyers undertook to be eligible for appointment bookings– including requiring clients complete a form providing their full names, email address, phone number, employer and reference if they had one,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
Han Lee and Junmyung Lee were arrested Wednesday morning and are due to appear in Boston federal court later in the day. James Lee was arrested in California, where he resides, and will appear in Boston court at a later date.