Police have arrested Ling Yu in New York and Hang Zheng in Austin, Texas after the two were accused of trafficking at least 16 women from China to the U.S. for prostitution.
In September 2016, the McLennan County Sheriff office’s Criminal Investigation Division began looking into the prostitution ring, reaching out to an online ad promoting an “Asian female escort” on Backpage.com, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by the Waco Tribune-Herald.
“Detective Joseph Scaramucci has been investigating human trafficking in Waco and Central Texas and it has led to an international trafficking ring that goes from Waco, Houston and to New York with women from China,” McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said.
Detective Scaramucci confirmed the discovery after meeting a woman in a Waco hotel and learning that she had been staying in the room after flying in from Hong Kong to San Francisco, and then to Houston.
Ling and Hang were arrested on first-degree felony charge of engaging in organized crime, and were being held in McLennan County Jail on Friday with bond listed at $250,000.
Two other people, 33-year-old Zhao Chen Shi and 27-year-old Xubin Zou, also committed or conspired to commit continuous human trafficking offenses between late 2016 and early 2017, the Tribune-Herald reported.
Zhao and Xubin remain at large, but authorities have issued arrest warrants for their arrest.
In addition, authorities said that Ling and Xubin placed online ads while they were living in New York.
The other two culprits arranged apartments or hotel rooms for an extended period of time so the women could meet their clients for sex.
Officers obtained a warrant to search Hang’s home in Houston earlier this week and seized about $115,000 in evidence — including $20,000 in cash and a Rolex watch worth nearly $38,000.
Called “the Uber of sex trafficking”, authorities also uncovered the criminal organization’s operations in Minnesota and California back in March.
Charges filed against four arrested suspects include “racketeering, sex trafficking, promotion of prostitution, concealing criminal proceeds and engaging in the business of concealing criminal proceeds in connection with a criminal enterprise profiteering off the sale of vulnerable human beings for sex” after investigations revealed that thousands of ads were posted on Backpage.com over the past two years.