by Maia Blume
Success! A small but rapidly growing mom-and-pop shop prostitution ring operating out of the Boston area and New York has been busted. Five people (three in Massachusetts and two in New York) were just arrested on multiple charges relating to forced prostitution and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
The group has been operational for over five years, running brothels out of roughly 11 apartments in the greater Boston area. They would post ads on Craigslist and in newspapers in Massachusetts, New York, and California seeking Asian women to move to Boston to work as escorts (in a few instances, the women were in the country illegally). These traffickers were so aggressive in wanting to expand their business and grow their brothels, that they spent over $13,000 in one seven month period placing ads in just one local newspaper in Boston … who knows how much they spent in total! Once here, the women were picked up from a local bus station, distributed amongst the group’s apartments and forced to have sex for money. If they were not complicit, the ring leaders, Hong Wei, known as Ms. Chen, and Jing Liang Chen, known as Mike, would threaten to harm their families.
If convicted, Hong Wei and Jing Liang Chen will be slammed with a heavy jail sentence; up to life in prison for sex trafficking, 20 years for forced labor, and 10 years for harboring and concealing aliens. (I like the sound of this!) The other three defendants, Xiang Hua Zhang, Dong Kai Chen, and Yu En Jin, will be stuck behind bars for five years for conspiracy and inducement of travel for prostitution. It seems as if our justice system is starting to work …
But not so fast. So far, three of the defendants have been released on unsecured bonds in the amounts of $10,000 and $100,000. This means that they only have to pay if they fail to show up for court, as opposed to being released on a secured bond, where the defendants front the money to later be returned if they make their court date. While in both cases the convict-in-attendance will not be out any cash, by not asking these predators to pay up from the get-go makes me think the judge doesn’t really care about what they’ve been doing for the last five years. Recent stories involving human trafficking busts indicate that secured bonds of varying amounts are the norm. So why did the judge think it was appropriate to let our pimps and pimpettes go for, well, nothing? Even if he (or she) thinks these actions are as heinous as I do, releasing them on unsecured bonds gives the illusion that sex trafficking is no big deal. And, well, it is.
Once again, the fate of a criminal has come down to a judge’s subjectivity. As our laws and legislation pick up the slack were our courts may fall off course, we can only hope that the jury isn’t nearly as lenient.
But let’s look at the bright side. Another prostitution ring has been busted. Let’s now extend some protection to the victims and offer them T-Visas to let them stay in the U.S., if they so choose. Slowly but surely, we’re busting down the doors of pimps and traffickers. Now let’s give these predators the punishments they deserve.