Chang Yu Chen, Hui Xu, Huicun Wei, and Robert Delano Yerick allegedly worked together to run a human trafficking ring that forced native Chinese women to into prostitution. The alleged trafficking ring spanned across two counties – Allegheny and Westmoreland – through various massage parlors.
According to WPXI, Ms. Xu operated three Tokyo Massage Parlor locations in Monroeville and one in Delmont, and Ms. Wei operated Judy’s Oriental Massage Parlor in Murrysville. They employed immigrant Chinese women who only spoke Mandarin.
Pennsylvania State Police, Murrysville Police, and Monroeville Police, along with the Attorney General’s office, ran a nearly year-long investigation before making arrests. Police were tipped off by neighbors, who saw reportedly saw female employees of the massage parlors hanging their clothes to dry on fences and cooking food outside.
According to the grand jury’s findings, the women employed at the massage businesses were “very frightened” of Ms. Xu. One woman, a Chinese immigrant, testified to the grand jury that she felt “heavy pressure” to perform sexual acts on customers and that Ms. Xu became “very angry” when she refused. She also testified that she was “forced to work 24 hours a day” and Ms. Xu would also become “angry” when they wanted to sleep.
Yerick was released Friday after a professional bondsman posted his bail; however, Xu, Chen and Wei are currently being held in Westmoreland County Prison.
The CSE Institute applauds the Pennsylvania State Police, Murrysville Police, Monroeville Police,and the Attorney General, Josh Shapiro’s, efforts to target businesses suspect of commercial sexual exploitation. Shapiro released a statement that described the alleged trafficking ring as “despicable” which “[abused] women for their own profit and [forced] them into prostitution”.
The CSE Institute agrees with the despicable nature of these acts and advocatesfor civil laws to end trafficking in illicit massage parlors, which very few cities or states have or enforce. According to Polaris, a national anti-trafficking organization, trafficking in illicit massage parlors is the second most prevalent type of trafficking, only second to trafficking in escort services. Illicit massage parlors generate nearly $2.5 billion of revenue annually. It’s important to reiterate that legislative action at this time is now necessary.
All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.