Sep. 14, 2023 By Bill Parry
The woman who managed a Flushing-based sex trafficking and prostitution ring was indicted on racketeering and other related charges along with two of the criminal organization’s enforcers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Yuan Yuan Chen, 30, also known as “Xiao Pang,” Yichu Chen, 21, and Johnnie Kim, 53, all from Queens, were arrested Sept. 14 and arraigned hours later on a 31-count superseding indictment unsealed in Brooklyn federal court.
The indictment adds 10 additional assaults in-aid-of racketeering to the pending charges against Rong Rong Xu, 31, also known as “Eleanor.” Siyang Chen, 34, also known as “Ban Ban,” Carlos Curry, 43, known as “Red,” Bo Jiang, 28, all of whom are from Queens, as well as Meizhen Song, 25, known as “Die Die,” and Jilong Yu, 25, both of Dalkas, Texas.
The charges relate to the defendants’ alleged participation in the Flushing-based organization that engaged in sex trafficking, beatings and robberies of dozens of women across the United States, according to federal prosecutors.
Yuan Yuan Chen is charged with racketeering conspiracy, sex trafficking conspiracy, interstate prostitution conspiracy and assault in-aid-of racketeering, among other crimes, and Yichu Chen and Johnnie Kim are charged with Hobbs Act robbery and conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery.
According to court filings, between April 2019 and September 2021, the defendants allegedly participated in or performed work on behalf of an organization that ran a nationwide prostitution business, trafficked women and directed and carried out violent attacks on women throughout the United States to protect its turf and deter commercial sex workers from working for rival organizations or independently. In carrying out these attacks, several defendants’ zip-tied the victims’ hands, stuffed or covered their mouths to silence them and then viciously beat them with hammers, wrenches, baseball bats, rolling pins and other blunt objects, leaving the victims bloody, terrified and, in many cases, seriously injured.
Yuan Yuan allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and managed the organization’s interstate prostitution business. She, along with her co-defendants, sought to keep women working for the organization through force, fraud or coercion.
For example, Yuan Yuan allegedly required women to provide passports, or copies of passports, to the organization and then would later remind them of such information when warning them not to cross the “boss,” according to the charges. The organization also sought to protect their business’ territory through violence and Yuan Yuan played a pivotal role in devising a scheme to circulate video recordings of assaults among large groups or sex workers to deter them from working independently or for rivals. Yuan Yuan personally recruited sex workers for the organization, took commissions from each of their jobs, identified rival businesses for purposes of planning targeted assaults of their employees and kept the organization’s own employees engaged in sex work by instilling fear in them, the charges allege.
“As alleged, the defendants preyed on vulnerable women for sex trafficking, brutally assaulting them to enforce loyalty to the criminal enterprise. Human beings are not property and deserve to be free from violence and coerced sexual activity,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said. “This case is another example of our Office’s longstanding commitment to bringing to justice sex trafficking organizations that exploit and seek to dehumanize victims for financial gain.”
As alleged, Yichu Chen and Johnnie Kim were enforcers employed by the organization to carry out attacks on commercial sex workers. Yichu and Kim directly participated in the violent assaults of two victims on Sept. 15, 2020, and April 21, 2021, respectively. A co-conspirator in a contemporaneous electronic communication described Yichu’s beating of the restrained victim on Sept. 15, 2020, as “super severe.” As for Kim, he, along with co-defendant Cury, allegedly stomped all over the body of a victim on April 21, 2021, and kicked her hard and repeatedly to the point that she lost consciousness, according to prosecutors.
“The crimes outlined in today’s indictment are among the most heinous we confront,” NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban said. “The NYPD and our law enforcement partners share an unwavering commitment to protect survivors of sex trafficking and to ensure that anyone seeking to profit through the abuse and exploitation of others is brought to justice. I thank and commend for their sustained dedication everyone involved in investigating and prosecuting this important case.”
The superseding indictment also charges 10 additional assaults-in-aid-of-racketeering and adds defendants to previously charged counts. WeChat messages reveal the planning of assaults by the defendants on behalf of the organization and describe details of the violence that occurred during the assaults, according to the charges. In some cases, videos of the attacks were circulated between the defendants to demonstrate to more senior members of the organization that the beatings were sufficiently severe. Some videos depict victims struggling while they are bound, bleeding and being beaten with hammers, baseball bats and rolling pins, among other weapons.
“These defendants allegedly engaged in the heinous crime of forced labor and chose to brutally exploit their fellow human beings for profit,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge James Smith said. “The FBI is committed to working with our partners to pursue justice on behalf of victims of human trafficking and prosecuting perpetrators to the fullest extent of the law.”
The three defendants were arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo. If convicted, Yuan Yuan faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment and up to life imprisonment. Yichu and Kim each face up to 20 years’ imprisonment on Hobbs Act robbery charges.