California Department of Justice Special Agents teamed up with local and federal law enforcement officers to put a stop to a sex trafficking ring allegedly being operated at a massage parlor in Emeryville.
On December 12, 2014, four suspects were arrested following a 18-month investigation into illegal activity at the Acucare Oriental Massage. In addition to sex trafficking, authorities allege the suspects were involved in bribing an Emeryville Police Captain, who worked undercover, posing as a corrupt officer, by paying him $2,000 a month to ignore what was taking place.
"The crimes these four are suspected of are despicable," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "Our CSLEA members who are Department of Justice Special Agents are to be commended for working to put a stop to human trafficking throughout the state, as well as this one case. This type of illegal activity is devastating to the individuals forced into prostitution and to the neighborhoods where the illegal activity takes place."
The investigation revealed that Acucare Oriental Massage was operating as a brothel, with as many as five young Asian females being used daily for commercial sex and being replaced every two weeks.
Authorities arrested Acucare Oriental Massage co-owners Jimmy Gong Lee, 55 and Rong Liu, 37. Also arrested, Wei Kuang, 56, who ran the front desk and Tom Loi, 59, who is accused of using money from Lee to pay off an Emeryville Police Captain, who was working undercover as a corrupt police officer. In a series of recorded meetings between March 2013 and May 2014, Loi allegedly gave the Captain a total of $24,000 in bribes—roughly $2,000 a month—to not shut down Acucare.
The investigation revealed that “johns” (men paying for sex) would be buzzed in to enter the business, pay approximately $60 to Kuang, and then select a “masseuse” from a group of women. The women would then negotiate further fees for sexual services, a portion of which was given back to Kuang.
When Emeryville authorities began questioning the legitimacy of the business, the alleged bribing of an officer began to take place.
On June 5, 2014, agents with the California Department of Justice and HSI executed search warrants on the Acucare Oriental Massage in Emeryville and Lee’s residence in San Francisco. In addition to shutting down Acucare, agents recovered $69,000 cash, and evidence showing that Lee, Liu and Kuang were operating a brothel.
Lee, Loi , Kuang, and Liu, face a total of 30 felony state charges for their respective roles in the operation. The charges include conspiracy, pimping, pandering, bribery, and tax fraud. Lee and Loi are being held at the San Francisco County Jail and Kuang and Liu are being held at the Alameda County Jail on $150,000 bail each and will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office. Lee and Loi are also facing federal charges.
Today’s arrests are the result of a joint investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the California Attorney General’s Tax Recovery and Criminal Enforcement Task Force, the Emeryville Police Department, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Eastern Districts of California.