A Medford woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for running a human trafficking and money laundering ring out of massage parlors that were used as fronts, the state’s attorney general’s office announced Thursday.
Xiu J. Chen, 38, was found guilty after a five-day trial on Dec. 3 of six counts of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, six counts of conspiracy to traffic persons for sexual servitude, five counts of deriving support from prostitution, five counts of keeping a house of ill fame, and four counts of money laundering.
Chen operated multiple businesses north of Boston that were portrayed as massage parlors that were in fact fronts for “an extensive trafficking and money laundering operation,” prosecutors said. They were located in Bedford, Billerica, Medford, Reading, and Woburn.
On Wednesday, a Middlesex superior court judge sentenced Chen to five years in state prison, with three years of probation after she completes her sentence, authorities said. During the probationary period, Chen cannot have contact with the victims in the case or her co-defendant, Ronald Keplin, according to the attorney general’s office, and cannot work in “bodywork or massage establishments.”
The attorney general’s office alleges that Keplin, 63, of Woburn, ran Body Language in Wilmington, and Chen was convicted of trafficking victims at that location. The case against Keplin is ongoing.
Investigators unearthed evidence that pointed to Chen as the leader of an operation that offered “commercial sexual activity between women and clients in exchange for a fee.”
Chen would recruit women from New York to work in the parlors, advertised commercial sexual activity online, set up the appointments for all the locations, and also managed the finances of the organization, prosecutors said.
She also organized “overcrowded housing” in which the victims would sleep on mattresses on the floor or in some cases the massage tables at the business, and she helped facilitate the daily transportation of the women to and from the businesses, according to authorities.
Chen, according to the attorney general’s office, received “the majority of the profits from these sexual encounters and used that money to perpetuate the criminal enterprise, including supporting the daily operations of the businesses like paying rent, utility bills, and for advertisements.”
She would hide excess cash in some of the parlors, and authorities found more than $300,00 cash in her home, prosecutors said.
“This defendant operated an extensive and lucrative criminal enterprise by setting up massage parlors as fronts for human trafficking and bringing victims to Massachusetts to engage in sex,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who exploit and prey on others to make a profit.”Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.