BELLEVUE, Wash. — Women were lured from Asia and forced into prostitution in Arizona, Illinois, Virginia and Washington, according to a federal indictment.
Some of the women allegedly worked as prostitutes inside a Bellevue apartment building.
According to court documents, undercover officers were directed to the Amli apartment complex, across from Bellevue Downtown Park, after following up on an ad for "sexy Asian women" in the "Body Rub" section of backpage.com.
When an officer arrived at the apartment building, he was met by a woman who said she was from Thailand and offered sex for money.
In the indictment, prosecutors accuse Unruean Abolulafia of being the ringleader and an illegal immigrant.
They say five others, including her ex-husband, are part of a conspiracy that "enticed Asian women to travel to and within the US for prostitution," to "profit financially ... from prostitution activities."
Undercover officers also found sex trafficking of Asian women at other apartment complexes in Bellevue.
Rajat Parsad, a resident of Amli, suspected that something was going on. "I just noticed some girls and they were sort of dressed up like you know, pretty scantily clad," he said. "When I asked them what they did they were very shy about it."
The indictment said the apartment was leased by Jeff Chu.
Chu was one of six people who were indicted for conspiracy on Monday in connection to the alleged crimes, but his lawyer said he is innocent.
The indicted could face up to five years in prison on the sex trafficking charges and up to 20 years in prison for separate charges of money laundering to hide the illegal profits.
On Monday, the State Senate approved tougher new laws, adding "human trafficking" and "sex abuse of a child for money" to the list of crimes that require sex offender registration.