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Sisters Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison Following Human Trafficking Investigation

October 16, 2015

(DELAWARE, Ohio) -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O'Brien, and Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien announced today that the owners of several Central Ohio massage parlors have been sentenced to prison following their convictions on multiple charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity with a human trafficking specification.

Today, visiting Delaware County Common Pleas Judge J. Timothy Campbell sentenced Estella Xu, 55, and her sister, Qing Xu, 58, to each serve 10 years in prison after they were found guilty of compelling employees at their three area massage parlors to engage in sexual activity fo for hire.  The defendants were also both classified as Tier I sex offenders.

In August, a Delaware County jury found the sisters guilty of one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity with a human trafficking specification and eight counts of promoting prostitution with human trafficking specifications.  A jury also found the defendants guilty of three counts of money laundering and three counts of practicing medicine without a license.

The case was prosecuted jointly by prosecutors with the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office and Franklin County Prosecutor's Office and was investigated by authorities working as part of the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, which is part of the Ohio Attorney General's Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission.

Members of the task force began investigating suspicious activity at the Amsun Massage businesses in Powell and Worthington and at Rainbow Massage in Columbus after tips from the community indicated that customers were purchasing sex at the massage parlors and some workers appeared to be living at the locations. Investigators executed search warrants at the three businesses and the sisters' Columbus apartment in January.

 

The investigation found that the sisters recruited women from outside the state who were native to China, could not speak English, and had no ties to Central Ohio.  The defendants led the women to believe that they would be working legitimate massage parlor jobs, but instead forced them to engage in sexual conduct with customers.

"The victims in this case had no choice but to do as they were told because they couldn't speak English, they had no access to transportation, and therefore, they had no way out," said Attorney General DeWine.  "We will not tolerate human trafficking in Ohio, and law enforcement will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who force others into involuntary servitude."

“This is a groundbreaking case,” said Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien. “Together we are changing the way society identifies a victim and evolving to prosecute the real criminals, those behind what is essentially modern day slavery."

"This case again illustrates that, by joining forces together, local prosecutors, the human trafficking task force and the attorney general’s office can effectively battle this terrible scourge, ” said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien.    

The Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force is comprised of authorities with the Columbus Police Department, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, Powell Police Department, Delaware County Sheriff's Office, Ohio State Highway Patrol, State Medical Board of Ohio, Delaware County Prosecutor's Office, Franklin County Prosecutor's Office, and Franklin County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities with the Worthington Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted with the investigation.  The Salvation Army of Central Ohio assisted the victims with their basic needs, provided case management, and linked them with medical care, legal assistance, and housing assistance.  Asian American Community Services also assisted through interpretation and cultural support for the victims.

To report activity you think may be related to human trafficking or to seek help, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.  This 24-hour hotline sends information directly to Ohio’s local anti-trafficking coalitions.  Warning signs of human trafficking can be found on the Ohio Attorney General’s website at http://links.govdelivery.com:80/track?type=click&enid=ZWFzPTEmbWFpbGluZ2lkPTIwMTUxMDE2LjUwMzQwNTQxJm1lc3NhZ2VpZD1NREItUFJELUJVTC0yMDE1MTAxNi41MDM0MDU0MSZkYXRhYmFzZWlkPTEwMDEmc2VyaWFsPTE3MjA1OTI5JmVtYWlsaWQ9cHJAbXZvaGlvLm5ldCZ1c2VyaWQ9cHJAbXZvaGlvLm5ldCZmbD0mZXh0cmE9TXVsdGl2YXJpYXRlSWQ9JiYm&&&102&&&http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/humantrafficking

Established in 1986, the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission assists local law enforcement agencies in combating organized crime and corrupt activities.  The commission is comprised of members of the law enforcement community and is chaired by the Ohio Attorney General.   In 2014, authorities working in OOCIC task forces across the state seized more than $23 million worth of drugs and more than $5 million in U.S. currency.

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