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Alleged SC Human Trafficking Ring: An Update

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DIGGING DEEPER …

Last December, authorities in Lexington County, S.C. arrested four Asian women and charged them with prostitution.

The women arrested were 34-year-old Sun Ah Cho, 47-year-old Ae Seon Lee, 59-year-old Ok J Park and 54-year-old Meijuan Yu.

Here are their mug shots …

(Click to enlarge)

choleeparkyu

(Pics via Richland County)

Cho, Lee, Park and Yu were busted as part of an undercover sting targeting three facilities: Sunset Spa and Relax Massage in Lexington, S.C. and Palmetto Sun Massage in West Columbia.

Here’s one of Sunset Spa’s advertisements …

(Click to enlarge)

sunset-spa

(Cap provided)

According to Lexington County, S.C. sheriff Jay Koon, his department’s investigation into these facilities is ongoing – and involves “possible connections to human trafficking.”

Hold up … if there were “possible connections” to human trafficking, we wonder: Why did Koon’s agency arrest these women and plaster their names (and faces) all over the newspapers?

Wouldn’t they be the victims in this situation?

Sources close to the situation tell us Cho, Lee, Park and Yu – who were immediately bailed out of jail by as-yet-unidentified benefactors – are indeed victims.  In fact, we’re told their arrests are linked to an ongoing federal probe of an alleged human trafficking ring based in the Midlands region of South Carolina.

We reported exclusively on this investigation last month, noting that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were probing “an operational network of ‘illicit massage businesses’ involving women from various Asian nations.”

According to our sources, the three facilities busted in the December raid are connected to this ring – along with several other facilities in Richland County, S.C.

No raids were conducted in Richland County, though – and the ones in Lexington County were reportedly mishandled.

“The raid was botched,” one insider told us.  “No video of the inside, no verification of licenses, no interpreter – the women were charged and bailed out, gone.”

S.C. governor Nikki Haley signed legislation over a year ago authorizing the statewide grand jury to prosecute human trafficking cases – a law aggressively promoted by S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson.

In fact Haley and Wilson will be appearing at a gala victims’ advocacy event next month where both politicians “will be recognized and honored for leading efforts to combat domestic violence, human trafficking and vigorously upholding crime victim rights in South Carolina.”

Sadly, Wilson’s office has prosecuted just one human trafficking case under the new law.  Although as we noted in our original report, that’s sad but not surprising given Wilson’s track record of not doing his job (here, here and here).

Even more embarrassing for the governor and attorney general?  The “illicit massage business” being investigated by the feds has allegedly been operating in their backyard.  In fact we’re told Wilson – who like Haley is a Lexington County resident – actually drove past one of these massage parlors every day on his way home from work.

Another curious connection?  Sunset Spa was operating on property owned by Lexington County council candidate Darrell Hudson and his step-mother, Laura Hudson – who just so happens to be the state’s most influential victims’ rights lobbyist.

FITS reached out to Laura Hudson about this issue.  According to her, Sunset Spa was a tenant in a building owned by “her family.”

“Their lease was terminated due to illegal activity,” Hudson told us.

Hmmmm …

This website has consistently argued in support of decriminalizing prostitution.

“If people want to make money by having sex with other people, what business is that of the government?” we wrote a few years back in one of our many posts on the subject.

We view this as a liberty issue, and an economic one …

But in advocating for the legalization of prostitution, we must remain vigilant against human trafficking – situations in which people are held against their will and forced to perform acts they do not wish to perform.

Stay tuned … we’re continuing to dig on this investigation and look forward to providing our readers with additional information soon.

(Banner image via iStock)

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