Josh Levy P ’14 ’16 ’20 aids in shutting down commercial sex ring

Leaders and patrons of brothel charged in Massachusetts Supreme Court
Josh Levy P ’14 ’16 ’20 aids in shutting down commercial sex ring

Just two miles from the Upper School campus, in Watertown’s Arsenal Yards, one location in an interstate commercial sex ring was in operation until its ringleaders were arrested in November 2023. Trafficking predominantly women of Asian descent, the ring allegedly catered to Massachusetts residents of many professions, including elected officials, technology executives, and professors. The Watertown brothel was one of many locations the suspects ran, the others situated elsewhere in Massachusetts, Virginia, and California.

At the helm of the team prosecuting the case is acting United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Joshua Levy P ’14 ’16 ’20.

He said of the case, “It’s important, so that we hold people accountable, who are in the business of selling women for pay.”

In November, his office filed a criminal complaint against the brothel’s ringleaders, Han Lee and Junmyung Lee (no relation), charging them both with one count of conspiracy to persuade, induce, entice, and coerce one or more individuals to travel in interstate or foreign commerce to engage in prostitution and one count of money laundering conspiracy.

The two suspects were indicted on those charges by a federal grand jury in February. Next in the legal proceedings is the discovery period, during which the U.S. Attorney’s Office will turn over evidence to the suspects’ lawyers for review. At the end of that phase, a magistrate judge will decide whether the case will go to trial.

In that scenario, women coerced to participate in the brothel ring would testify before the court. “Challenges generally in prosecuting human trafficking cases is it takes a lot of courage and bravery for victims to come forward and share their stories and then have to testify in court about what they’ve been through,” Mr. Levy said.

Not only the brothel’s ringleaders are confronting the justice system: 28 of the brothel’s patrons could face charges as well.
“It’s really important if we are going to tackle the problem of human trafficking that you not only go after the people who are profiting off of this type of conduct, but you do something about the demand that fuels the industry,” Mr. Levy said.

Unlike the crimes the ringleaders allegedly committed, solicitation of sex violates state statute, not federal. As Mr. Levy’s office is responsible for enforcing the latter, it referred the case against the 28 individuals to the Middlesex County District
Attorney’s office. It’s important that the school community pay attention to these cases, he said.

“If what’s happening here is not noticed by the public, then we are achieving specific deterrence of preventing the leaders from engaging in this type of conduct going forward, but we’re not sending that broader message.”

Alex Adams ’24 has followed the case closely, but said that, to her surprise, not many others she knows have.

“Anyone I talked to had never heard of it. And I find that shocking because it is something happening in our neighborhood.”

The community’s ignorance is especially surprising given the school’s proximity to the brothel, she said.

“It was crazy to think that something like this could be in our backyard.”

Both the ringleaders and the 28 individuals who allegedly patronized the brothel should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Alex said.

“It’s important to show that those that may be looking to manipulate the system can’t, and that law is truly fair.”

At a date yet to be determined, the 28 suspected sex buyers will participate in probable cause hearings, in which a judge decides if there is sufficient evidence to press criminal charges. Though such hearings are typically held behind closed doors, the Massachusetts Supreme Court mandated in February that the hearings for the 28 suspected sex buyers be open to the public. The decision was reached after concerns that the suspects might leverage their considerable wealth and connections to receive favorable treatment and would have greater success doing so if the proceedings were confidential. Alex recognizes the decision’s intent, but also sees drawbacks, she said.

“Of course, there’s a probability that these brothel clients won’t be charged with anything, and then it does bring a certain level of attention, not only to the client, but also their friends and family. I empathize with that.”

Kelly Diaz ’24 is not sympathetic, she said. “I don’t mind the hearings being public. Who’s to say they aren’t going to use their power to sway a private hearing? We see so many people around us using their power for the worse. So, I really don’t hold back. They don’t deserve any mercy.” The trafficking victims are at the forefront of her mind, Kelly said. “I hope whoever was exploited is okay now, even though there’s really no way to come back from that.”

Like Alex, Kelly was dismayed to learn the alleged crimes occurred so close to campus life, in a store block she frequents.

“It really does suck to think somewhere I hope to continue to enjoy is infested with such malice. I have definitely heard of similar
things happening, but not ones so few meters away from school.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Vanguard Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *