SAN FRANCISCO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that Jimmy Gong Lee, 55, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and must pay restitution in the amount of $33,861.26 for his role in an Emeryville, California-based sex trafficking ring.
“The defendant sold young, vulnerable women as commodities,” said Attorney General Harris. “This sentence brings a perpetrator of this heinous crime to justice, and sends a clear message that sex traffickers will be swiftly prosecuted. I thank our DOJ agents and our local, state and federal partners for their continued commitment to fighting trafficking in communities across California.”
On May 22, 2015, Jimmy Gong Lee and Tom Loi, 59, pled guilty to multiple felony charges. Lee pled to conspiracy to commit pandering, two counts of bribery, and three counts of tax fraud and Loi pled to conspiracy to commit pandering and two counts of bribery. Loi will be sentenced in October.
The defendants are two of the four suspects (Jimmy Gong Lee, 55, Tom Loi, 59, Wei Kuang, 56, and Rong Liu, 37) arrested and charged with operating a sex trafficking ring out of Lee and Liu’s business, Acucare Oriental Massage, in Emeryville, California.
Charges are still pending against Kuang and Liu.
The arrests and sentences 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 (TRaCE), the Emeryville Police Department, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern and Eastern Districts of California.
The joint investigation revealed that Acucare Oriental Massage operated as a front for a brothel where young Asian females were used for commercial sex and replaced every two weeks. Lee and Liu owned the business while Kuang operated the front desk, collecting money from “customers” and providing condoms.
When authorities became suspicious of the business, an undercover Emeryville Police Captain posing as a corrupt police officer was paid a total of $24,000 in bribes by Loi to allow for the business’s continued operation. On June 5, 2014, California Department of Justice and HSI agents issued warrants for both Acucare Oriental Massage and Lee’s residence, recovering $69,000 cash and evidence that Lee, Liu and Kuang were operating a brothel. Lee, Loi, Kuang and Liu were arrested and charged for conspiracy, pimping, pandering, bribery, and tax fraud on December 12, 2014.
In 2012, Attorney General Harris created a Human Trafficking Work Group and released a report, The State of Human Trafficking in California, outlining the growing prevalence of human trafficking crimes in the state (http://www.oag.ca.gov/human-trafficking/2012). The report analyzes the challenges California faces in addressing this increasing crime. As a populous border state with a significant immigrant population, California is one of the top destinations for human traffickers.