US Justice indicts 12 Thais for trafficking in hundreds of Thai women for commercial sex in the US

The United States Department of Justice yesterday released a lengthy statement saying it has indicted 17 suspects, 12 of them are Thais, for trafficking in hundreds of Thai women into the United States for commercial sex.

According to the department, the indictment announced yesterday at St. Paul, Minnesota, charges 17 members of an international sex trafficking organization with transporting hundreds of women from Thailand and profiting from advertising them for commercial sex throughout the United States.

The charged defendants include five U.S. nationals.

Eight of the 17 charged defendants were arrested yesterday at various locations in Minnesota, California, Illinois, Georgia and Hawaii.

One charged defendant was previously arrested in Belgium and four defendants remains at large.

Human trafficking is a degrading crime that undermines our nation's most basic promises of liberty and security, said Attorney General Lynch. This case demonstrates the Justice Department's determination to hold traffickers accountable and to help the survivors of this appalling practice reclaim their freedom and dignity.

The Thai defendants include Sumalee Intarathong, 55, Chabaprai Boonluea, 42, of Winder, Georgia, Watcharin Luamseejun, 46, Pantilla Rodpholka, 31, of Mount Prospect, Illinois, Noppawan Lerslurchachai, 35, of Lomita, California.

Their charges ranged from conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, to commit forced labor, and to commit visa fraud,

According to the indictment, Intarathong served as a boss before her arrest in Belgium earlier this year.

As alleged in the indictment, each woman identified as a victim of human trafficking was owned by Intarathong or another boss until the victim could repay the debt.

According to the indictment, other members of the criminal organization served as house bosses, who owned one or more of the houses of prostitution where the flowers were exploited for commercial sex. House bosses were responsible for day-to-day operations, including advertising the flowers for commercial sex, maintaining the houses of prostitution, scheduling appointments with sex buyers and ensuring that a significant portion of the prostitution proceeds were routed back to the trafficker/boss to pay down the debt. The house boss kept the remainder of the prostitution proceeds, while the women were not permitted to retain any of their earnings, except for the occasional tip offered by a sex buyer.

As set forth in the indictment, other members of the criminal organization served as facilitators, who were primarily responsible for laundering the criminal proceeds of the organization and for directing the movement of victims within the United States, while other co-conspirators served as runners. The runners were typically men who were paid, in part, by receiving access to sex acts with the women.

Runners accompanied the women anytime they were permitted to leave a house of prostitution to obtain personal items, travel as directed by the criminal organization or deposit money into accounts set up by the organization for repayment of the women's debts. Runners were also sometimes asked to rent hotel rooms, apartments or other facilities for the organization.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)