SACRAMENTO – On September 13, 2019 the California Attorney General’s Office announced the filing of multiple charges against Jing Chiang Huang, Shu Mei Lin, Shao Lee, Peihsin Lee, Pengcheng Cai, and Dafeng Wen for alleged felonies involving sex trafficking, tax fraud, and money laundering as part of an organized crime ring operating throughout California.
The charges are the product of multiple operations undertaken by the California Department of Justice and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the California Franchise Tax Board, and numerous local and national law enforcement partners.
“Most importantly the actions of those investigating this sex trafficking ring brought about the rescue of more than a dozen sex trafficking survivors,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Now the prosecution of these suspected criminals can proceed. We know that some of our CSLEA members, including, Lisa Gunson, a member who works at the California Franchise Tax Board worked this case, investigating this ring as it relates to suspected tax fraud. We thank all of the law enforcement officers who help with this investigation.”
In an amended criminal complaint, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra alleges that the defendants committed 13 felonies between 2015 and 2019 related to sex trafficking of multiple victims, tax fraud, and money laundering. Per the complaint, the defendants allegedly advertised on Backpage.com in connection with their human trafficking operation and allegedly deprived individuals of their liberty in order to force them to commit sex acts at multiple brothel locations. In order to exercise control over the victims, the defendants allegedly withheld at least one survivor’s passport and threatened future job opportunities. Among other things, the defendants were also allegedly involved in the collection of proceeds related to the sex trafficking and allegedly attempted to launder the money through monetary instruments, such as checks, that were then deposited at various banks.
As a result of a June takedown targeting the crime ring, two of the defendants, Jing Chiang Huang and Shu Mei Lin, were arrested and 14 survivors of trafficking were rescued. Following further enforcement action in September, three additional defendants, Peihsin Lee, Pengcheng Cai, and Dafeng Wen, were arrested.
The arrests and charges were the result of a joint operation by
- the California Department of Justice,
- Ventura County Sheriff’s Office,
- Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office,
- Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office,
- Santa Clara Police Department,
- Santa Clara County Probation Department,
- Santa Clara County Human Trafficking Task Force,
- San Jose Police Department,
- Burlingame Police Department,
- Fremont Police Department,
- Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office,
- Milpitas Police Department,
- Newark Police Department,
- Oxnard Police Department,
- San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office,
- Sunnyvale Police Department,
- Tacoma Police Department,
- Federal Bureau of Investigation,
- and California Franchise Tax Board.
A copy of the amended complaint is available here.