Nassau County, NY - September 24, 2015 - Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that a husband and wife from Queens have been indicted and arrested for coercing two women into performing sex acts on customers in Nassau County massage parlors that the couple owned.
Zhaowei Yin, 49, and his wife Shuwen Ai, 46, both of Flushing, were arrested by DA investigators this morning and arraigned on the following grand jury indictment charges:
• Five counts of Sex Trafficking (a B felony)
• Two counts of Promoting Prostitution in the Second Degree (a C Felony)
• Labor Trafficking (a D felony)
• Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree (a D Felony)
• Unauthorized Practice under NYS Education Law (an E felony)
Nassau County Court of Claims Judge Philip Grella set bail at $250,000 cash or bond. Yin and Ai are due back in court on Oct. 15. They face a maximum sentence of 8-1/3 to 25 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.
A third defendant in the case will be arraigned at a future date.
“Trafficked individuals like the women in this case are the victims of a modern-day form of slavery happening all around us in communities across the country,” Acting DA Singas said. “This is what slavery looks like in 2015. Thanks to the hard work of prosecutors, DA investigators, and the Nassau County Police, we were able to identify, indict, and arrest suspected human traffickers right in our own backyard. We will continue to use every investigative tool and partnership available to us to find human traffickers and hold them accountable.”
“Today’s arrests are the culmination of a joint investigation with the Nassau County Police Department’s Narcotic/Vice Squad and the DA’s Investigators,” Acting Police Commissioner Tom Krumpter said. “Utilizing all resources and skilled personnel we were able to bring these two suspects to justice as they will now be facing significant jail time if convicted of these heinous acts. Their arrests should send a clear message to individuals who prey on those they feel are without a voice.”
“This arrest stems from a meticulous investigation by one of the best human trafficking units in New York,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women - New York State. “We thank Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas for showing that it is possible to bring traffickers to justice instead of prosecuting their victims. The Nassau D.A.’s Office is earning the trust of trafficking victims and using those relationships to build investigations. This is exactly what we want District Attorneys’ offices to be doing.”
“With the continued collaboration and participation between The Safe Center and the District Attorney’s Office, we are able to provide services and advocacy to the women who are the true victims of these crimes,” said Sandy Oliva and Cynthia Scott, Co-Executive Directors of The Safe Center.
Acting DA Singas said that between May 2013 and the end of January 2014, the defendants allegedly hired two women responding to ads in Chinese-language newspapers under the guise that they would be expected to perform massages, but then began requiring them to perform sexual services on male customers at two locations: Lucy’s Spa at 300 Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead and Panda Foot Spa at 400 Franklin Avenue in Franklin Square. Both locations are now closed.
Investigators found that the women were often forced to sleep at the businesses. While the defendants never paid one victim for the time that she worked at the massage parlor at all, the defendants deducted wages from the other victim for occasional transportation home after work and for sleeping at the location, even though she was forced to stay there. The defendants threatened one of the victims that if she failed to comply with their demands, they would post a naked photograph of her on the Internet and in newspapers. The defendants also threatened the undocumented victim that if she reported them to the police, she would be deported. When one of the victims was subjected to physical violence at the hands of a male customer, the defendants forced her to continue to perform whatever services the customer requested.
Both victims had been arrested and charged during undercover operations by the Nassau County Police Department, and their cases were accordingly handled in the Human Trafficking Intervention Part of Nassau County District Court. During further investigation by investigators and prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with members of the Nassau County Police Department Narcotics Vice Squad, it was discovered that the women had been coerced to perform sexual acts and had become the victims of sex and labor trafficking. The charges against the victims were subsequently dismissed, and a wider investigation into their alleged traffickers was launched.
The defendants are believed to have owned now-closed spas and massage parlors in Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties, including at least one currently operating spa in Nassau County. The joint investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and the Nassau County Police Department is ongoing.
The Nassau County Human Trafficking Intervention Part was opened in October 2012 as one of three such pilot courts in New York State, in collaboration with the District Attorney’s Office and as part of the statewide Human Trafficking Intervention Initiative proposed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman. The purpose of these court parts is to identify defendants who are charged with prostitution and related offenses as a result of being trafficked, and provide linkages to support services. Those who engage in these services may receive non-criminal dispositions or dismissal of their cases, in an effort by the criminal justice system to recognize these individuals as victims of sex and labor trafficking and end further victimization of this vulnerable population. In Nassau County, the District Attorney’s Office has taken this initiative one step further, and committed to aggressively investigate and prosecute any allegations of human trafficking that came to light as a result of any case that was handled in this part. Today’s arrests are a direct result of that commitment.
The District Attorney’s Office partners with The Safe Center LI, RESTORE NYC, and other service providers to offer programs that combine comprehensive assessments and a variety of supportive services, such as individual and group counseling, shelter and housing assistance, immigration services, medical referrals, and education assistance. To date, Nassau County’s Human Trafficking Intervention Part has handled more than 660 cases, and more than 260 individuals have availed themselves of the opportunities offered by these service providers.
Assistant District Attorney Christine Guida of Acting DA Singas’ Special Victims Bureau is prosecuting the case. Yin is represented by John Healy, Esq and Ai is represented by Christopher Graziano, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.