Apartments in Tysons, Merrifield used as illegal brothels, federal prosecutors allege

The Avalon Mosaic apartments in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Three men have been arrested for coercing women into sex work at “high-end” brothels in Massachusetts and Virginia, the Department of Justice announced yesterday (Wednesday).

Locations used for the brothels include units in Hanover Tysons and Avalon Mosaic, apartment buildings in Tysons and Merrifield, according to a court affidavit by a Department of Homeland Security special agent.

Federal prosecutors have charged Massachusetts residents Han Lee and Junmyung Lee as well as California resident James Lee “with conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts said in a press release.

According to the DOJ, since at least July 2020, the men enticed primarily Asian women to travel to and work in the brothels, whose clients included “politicians, high tech and pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, scientists and accountants.”

Specifically, the defendants allegedly rented high-end apartment complexes as brothel locations, which they furnished and regularly maintained. The monthly rent for the brothel locations were as high as $3,664. It is further alleged that the defendants coordinated the women’s airline travel and transportation and permitted women to stay overnight in the brothel locations so they did not have to find lodging elsewhere, therefore enticing women to participate in their prostitution network.

The locations in Tysons and Merrifield were advertised on a website claiming to be for nude photography models, but the DHS agent says he believes the ads are a “front” for commercial escort or prostitution services.

“Approximately twenty (20) sex buyers were interviewed in connection with this multi-yearlong investigation,” the agent said in the affidavit.

Clients were charged anywhere from $350 up to $600 per hour that they paid in cash, the DOJ says. Prosecutors allege that the defendants concealed “hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash” from the prostitution ring through deposits in their personal bank accounts and “peer-to-peer transfers.”

“Additionally, it is alleged that the defendants regularly used hundreds of thousands of dollars of the cash proceeds from the prostitution business to purchase money orders (in values under an amount that would trigger reporting and identification requirements) to conceal the source of the funds,” the press release said. “These money orders were then used to pay for rent and utilities at brothel locations in Massachusetts and Virginia.”

The defendants could face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $250,000 under the sex trafficking charges, according to the DOJ.

Han Lee and Junmyung Lee appeared in a federal court in Boston yesterday after getting arrested that morning, while James Lee was arrested in California and “will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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