SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (BCN) — Three people pleaded guilty Monday in Santa Clara County Superior Court for their involvement in a sex trafficking ring that operated across the state, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The defendants — Pengcheng Cai, Dafeng Wen and Peishin Lee — will be required to serve prison sentences of up to eight years. They were among six people charged in 2019 with more than a dozen felonies allegedly committed between 2015 and 2019 related to sex trafficking of multiple victims, tax fraud and money laundering.
The pleas follow another from one of the six charged, Jing Chiang Huang, who pleaded guilty in January 2020 to one count of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, three counts of income tax evasion and one count of money laundering. In May, she was sentenced to nearly 11 years in state prison.
Monday’s guilty pleas are the result of a cooperative investigation by the California Department of Justice, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office and several other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“Whether it’s trafficking, money laundering, or any other crime, California is committed to holding those who break the law accountable,” said Bonta. “The guilty pleas we’ve announced today demonstrate what we can achieve when we work together. Through grit and collaboration, we’re dismantling organized crime and disrupting human trafficking in our state. Bottom line: Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
The charges came after multiple joint takedown operations resulted in several arrests, as well as the rescue of more than a dozen suspected survivors.
As part of the trafficking operation, the crime ring used Backpage.com to place advertisements for sex and deprived individuals of their liberty in order to force them to commit sex acts at multiple brothel locations. Cai pleaded guilty to one charge of sex trafficking and will be required to serve eight years in prison, as well as register as a sex offender. Wen pleaded guilty to labor trafficking and will be required to serve five years in prison.
Lee pleaded guilty to money laundering and being an accessory after the fact, and, after already serving time in jail and on home detention, she will be required to serve an additional year in jail.
The fifth defendant is currently set to be arraigned on December 27 and the final defendant, Shao Lee, is currently considered a fugitive and remains at large.
Copyright © 2021 Bay City News, Inc.