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36 Members of International Sex Trafficking Organization Found Guilty

The Department of Justice announced Thursday the conviction of 36 people for their roles in the operation of an international sex trafficking organization that compelled hundreds of women from Bangkok, Thailand, to engage in sex acts across the country. The charges against the suspects include conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; sex trafficking by use of force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and harboring illegal aliens.

The operation employed traffickers, house bosses, money launderers and facilitators, and laundered tens of millions of dollars in illicit funds. It operated in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Seattle and Austin.

The victims spoke little English, were repeatedly threatened and were forced to have sex with strangers for up to 12 hours a day, according to the Justice Department. Many were coerced into marriage to get visa applications approved, received fraudulent visa and travel documents with false identities and were not allowed to go outside without being accompanied by a member of the organization.

“The convictions of these defendants close this chapter for law enforcement, however mark only the beginning of the recovery process for the victims,” said Special Agent Tracy J. Cormier of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. “I am extremely proud of the work done by HSI’s special agents, and of the teamwork demonstrated by our law enforcement partners in dismantling this criminal organization. Our communities are safer as a result of this investigation.”

The organization laundered the funds through couriers, who hid large volumes of cash on their person and in their packed clothing and in dolls when they traveled to Thailand. The use of the “halawa-based system,” in which funds are transferred by trust and family association, kept the funds largely undetected by officials.

https://twitter.com/TheJusticeDept/status/1073255651504218114

Five defendants were found guilty on Thursday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul and an additional 31 defendants previously pleaded guilty.

The Defendants

  • Michael J. Morris, 65, of Seal Beach, Calif., was found guilty of  conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; sex trafficking by use of force, fraud, and coercion; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution. 
  • Pawinee Unpradit, 46, of Dallas was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution. 
  • Saowapha Thinra, 44, of Hutto, Texas, was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution. 
  • Thoucharin Ruttanmongkongul, 35, was convicted for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Waralee Wanless, 39, of The Colony, Texas, was convicted for conspiracy to commit sex trafficking; conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution; conspiracy to engage in money laundering and conspiracy to use a communication facility to promote prostitution.
  • Chatarak Taufflieb, 52, of San Jose, Calif., was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Peerachet Thipboonngam, 58, of Los Angeles was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Gregory Allen Kimmy, 38, of Hutto, Tex., was convicted of conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Wilaiwan Phimkhallee, 40, of Chicago was convicted of Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Kanyarat Chaiwirat, 52, of Chicago was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Pornthep Sukprasert, 42, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Mulchulee Chalermsakulrat, 41, of Huntington Beach, Calif, was convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Bhunna Win, 51, of San Diego was convicted of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.
  • Natchanok Yuvasuta, 50, of Los Angeles was convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Nattaya Leelarungrayab, 47, of Los Angeles was convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Peerasak Guntetong, 61, of North Hollywood, Calif., was convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Veerapon Ghettalae, 57, of Lake Elsinore, Calif., was convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Matthew Mintz, 27, of Chicago was convicted of conspiracy to commit alien harboring and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Mohit Tandon, 38, of Burr Ridge, Ill., was convicted of conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Richard Alexander, 53, of DeKalb, Ill., was convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Tanakron Patrath, 60, of Houston, Tex., was convicted of conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Panwad Khotpratoom, 47, of Houston, Tex., was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Chabaprai Boonluea, 44, of Winder, Ga., was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Noppawan Lerslurchachai, 37, of Lomita, Calif., was convicted of sex trafficking by use of force, fraud and coercion and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Watcharin Luamseejun, 48, of an unknown address, was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Pantila Rodphokha, 33, of Mount Prospect, Ill., was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Soysuda Siangdang, 34, of Chicago was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Andrew Flanigan, 53, of Winder, Ga., was convicted of conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Todd Vassey, 56, of Lahanina, Hawaii, was convicted of conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Thi Vu, 50, of Atlanta was convicted of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • John Zbracki, 61, of Lakeville, Minn., was convicted of conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • John Ng, 41, of Cottage Grove, Minn., was convicted of conspiracy to commit transportation to engage in prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.
  • Patcharaporn Saengkham, 43, of Los Angeles was convicted of conspiracy to enter the U.S. by means of misrepresentation and concealment of facts.
  • Chanachida Senasu, 42, of Dallas was convicted of conspiracy to enter the U.S. by means of misrepresentation and concealment of facts.
  • Yadaporn Panngown, 32, of Chicago was convicted of conspiracy to enter the U.S. by means of misrepresentation and concealment of facts.
  • Chonthicha Soichaisong, 38, of Austin, Texas, was convicted conspiracy to enter the United States by means of misrepresentation and concealment of facts.

Multimedia journalist James Cullum has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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