Prostitution and drug ring busted in New York four days before Super Bowl

Earlier this month, we told you about how local strip club employees banded together to raise awareness about sex trafficking in advance of the Broncos-Chargers playoffs game in Denver. Their reasoning? Sporting events attract forced prostitution.

But is this true? That weekend, Denver police reported just one prostitution-related arrest -- which is not unusual. But yesterday, New York authorities busted a drug and prostitution ring they say was marketing its services to people in town for Sunday's Super Bowl.

This year's big game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will take place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey -- just across the border from Manhattan. On Thursday, four days before the game, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced charges against eighteen people for running "a high-end prostitution and drug-trafficking ring."

New York authorities say the ring sold "party packs" of cocaine and prostitutes and was gearing up for the Super Bowl by increasing its activity and marketing. A press release from Schneiderman's office notes that the ring, which also advertised via commercials on public access TV, sent a text message to frequent customers last week noting that "new sexy & beautiful girls R in town waiting for u."

From the press release (which is on view in its entirety below): "The arrests were made (on Thursday) in hopes of learning additional information about johns ordering 'party packs' for Super Bowl weekend. This ring's business model of selling package deals, and its significant presence advertising on the Internet and public access television, left it well-positioned to cater to an out-of-town clientele."

Asked about evidence that suggests the ring was targeting football fans, a spokesman for Schneiderman noted that one of the ring's brothels was located just a block from "Super Bowl Boulevard" in midtown Manhattan, an area set up by the NFL for football fans. He also said prostitution-related arrests in January are up 30 percent from last year.

The eleven-month investigation was nicknamed "Operation Out of Bounds." In all, two men and sixteen women were arrested and charged with conspiracy, narcotics sales, promoting prostitution, money laundering and other charges. The charging documents note that some of the women arrested played "managerial roles," supplying the narcotics to the prostitutes, who then sold them to the johns. The apparent leader was a woman named Hyun Ok Yoonung, known as "Beige." Schneiderman noted in a press conference that law enforcement is working to identify victims of human trafficking among the prostitutes who were involved in the ring and offer them sanctuary.

It was common practice for the ring to send one prostitute to supply a john with drugs and then, when he was "impaired," to "flood the room" with additional high-end prostitutes and charge the john's credit card for all of them, the press release notes. The ring's proceeds were allegedly laundered through a variety of "front" businesses, including a wig wholesaler, a beauty supply wholesaler and a limousine service. Law enforcement estimates that the ring generated "millions of dollars in illegal proceeds."

Continue to see the press release and watch a video of a news conference featuring the New York attorney general. Here's the aforementioned news conference video...

...and here's the press release:


Year-long Joint Investigation Uncovers Illicit Operation Selling "Party Packs" To High-End Clientele

Schneiderman: My Office Will Pursue And Punish Those Who Exploit Women And Pollute Our Communities With Deadly Narcotics

NEW YORK - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, joined by NYPD Chief of Department Phillip Banks III and representatives from the New York State Police, today announced charges against 18 individuals for running a high-end prostitution and drug trafficking ring. The suspects are charged with conspiracy and a variety of underlying crimes, including narcotics sales, promoting prostitution and money laundering.

Attorney General Schneiderman detailed a nearly year-long undercover investigation that brought down a criminal ring charged with selling so-called "party packs," involving cocaine and prostitutes, and laundering the illegal proceeds through front businesses that included a clothing wholesaler, a wig wholesaler, a limousine service and a beauty supply wholesaler. The ring is estimated to have generated millions of dollars in illegal proceeds and was working to market its services to a high-end clientele coming to the New York metropolitan area for the Super Bowl.

"Drug trafficking and prostitution are a scourge on communities across our state," Attorney General Schneiderman said. "My office will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement on multi-agency investigations like this one to take down networks of criminals who exploit women and poison our communities for profit."

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said, "These criminals utilized apartments in residential buildings as a way of carrying out their illicit activities. They disregarded the safety and well-being of every member in those communities by providing a 'one-stop shopping' drug and prostitution ring. Thanks to the NYPD's Vice Enforcement Major Case and Human Tracking Teams, investigators from the New York State Attorney General's Office, the New York State Police, the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Attorney's Office Southern District, this criminal enterprise no longer operates."

Over the course of an 11-month investigation utilizing undercover investigators, physical and electronic surveillance and reviews of business records, the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force and the New York Police Department determined that the individuals arrested today engaged in a criminal conspiracy that spanned Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens and several other states, though the operation was based in Manhattan.

Investigators believe that the suspects targeted wealthy out-of-town customers as prospective clients, especially before and during large events in the tri-state area. As recently as last week, just 10 days before the Super Bowl, a text message was blasted to frequent customers noting that "new sexy & beautiful girls R in town waiting for u."

The criminal ring also promoted its prostitution business with numerous advertisements on the internet and public access television. In addition to promoting prostitutes, the ring sold cocaine, often to the same customers.

Transcripts of conversations that were intercepted by electronic surveillance revealed that the ring used various code names for cocaine, including "party," "jewelry," "powder," "maek" and "Soojaebi," a Korean noodle and vegetable soup. Intercepted conversations also revealed that prostitutes would bring cocaine with them to meetings with johns who had ordered the drugs in advance. This is what they referred to as a "party pack."

The ring charged customers for sex and drugs as a package deal, sometimes billing for cocaine in an equivalent number of "hours" of prostitution. In some cases, the ring accepted credit cards in payment for sex and drugs. It was common practice for this ring to supply the johns with large quantities of drugs brought by one prostitute, and then once the john was impaired by the drugs, the ring would flood the room with additional prostitutes and repeatedly charge the john's credit card, at times charging upward of $10,000 for one night. Through its various front businesses, the ring would charge credit cards for legitimate goods and services that were not actually provided in order to disguise the fact that customers were actually paying for cocaine and sex.

Today's arrests come four days before the Super Bowl is scheduled to be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The arrests were made today in hopes of learning additional information about johns ordering "party packs" for Super Bowl weekend. This ring's business model of selling package deals, and its significant presence advertising on the internet and public access television, left it well-positioned to cater to an out-of-town clientele.

Today's arrests follow the takedown of another major prostitution, drug dealing and money laundering ring by OCTF and the NYPD last year. In that case, 20 individuals were indicted, and all have pled guilty in connection with a conspiracy that spanned the tri-state area and revolved around the advertising agency Somad Enterprises. The defendants pled guilty to charges including Enterprise Corruption, and the sentences ranged from three to nine years in state prison.

The investigation was directed by OCTF Senior Investigator Joel Poccia under the supervision of OCTF Supervising Investigator Paul Grzegorski and Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Christopher Vasta, all under the supervision of Chief Dominick Zarrella of the Investigations Bureau, and by New York Police Department Detective Walter Harkins, under the supervision of Sergeant Sunghoon Kim and Lieutenant Michael Morales of the Vice Enforcement Major Case Team and overall supervision of Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale, and by Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Jeffrey Bashara, under the supervision of Group Supervisor Michael Conlon, and the overall supervision of Deputy Special Agent In Charge Anthony Scandiffio.

The case is being prosecuted by OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorneys General Tarek Rahman and Howard Feldberg, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Peri Alyse Kadanoff and under the overall supervision of Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Kelly Donovan.

The charges against the defendants are accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

The following defendants were arrested and charged with various felony and misdemeanor counts:

TONY YOO, 34 JOSEPH LANDRUM ("Landrum"), 32 HYUN OK YOON ("Beige"), 41 YOUNG OK TAE ("Tae"), 38 KYUNG CHUN MIN ("Nicky"), 33 SUN LEE AHN ("Sarah"), 56 YOUNG MI LEE ("Jasmine"), 40 JI YOUNG MOON ("Ivy"), 40 JANICE LEE ("Naomi"), 35 HEE JUNG CHERN ("Leah"), 42 HAIMING QUAN ("Megan"), 41 KYONG BIN CHO ("Jackie"), 44 JUNG HEE JANG ("Sara"), 43 IN SUK CHO ("HyoJung"), 49 JI YOUNG LEE ("Jenny"), 34 HADA JANG ("Mia"), 26 NINA KIM ("Tina"), 31 HAJOUNG HEATH ("Dada"), 40

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
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