A couple who immigrated to New Hampshire from Mainland China has been arrested for running a sex slave ring that forced Chinese women hoping to immigrate to the U.S. into prostitution.
Sou Chao Li and Derong Maio, a pair of 37-year-old Chinese nationals living in Concord, New Hampshire, were arrested and charged with running an interstate sex trafficking ring. Prosecutors allege that the pair kept Chinese women in captivity and starved them and beat them to keep them in thrall.
Prosecutors also allege that the couple was running the sex ring since 2016 out of locations in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
According to the New York Post:
“Some of the Chinese females were employed outside the sex trafficking and prostitution industry when they first arrived in the United States but were unable to earn a wage substantial enough to repay debts associated with their travel to the United States,” according to an unsealed indictment filed in US District Court for the District of Maine.
The women typically spoke little or no English and had very few or no contacts in any of the three states to assist them, federal prosecutors claim.
After the women were recruited by Maio over WeChat, he and Li forced them to have sex with clients in hotel rooms and residences throughout the region. They also paid other co-conspirators to advertise the women on the now-shuttered Backpage.com and deprived them of “documents, food, clothing, room keys and other items” to ensure that they were unable to leave the locations, prosecutors allege.
The pair could face up to life in prison if convicted as well as a $250,000 fine each.
The pair pleaded not guilty to all charges on Thursday, but remain in prison.
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