The owner of an Anchorage business owner is being charged with two felony counts of sex-trafficking after a four-year joint investigation by state and federal agencies.
Yin Mae Tran-Lau is accused of promoting prostitution at her Anchorage massage parlor since 2011. According to a lengthy deposition submitted to the court from the Anchorage Police Department detective leading the case, days of surveillance, undercover operations and witness cooperation are all part of the evidence in the state’s case against Ms. Tran-Lau.
The case involves local partnerships with the IRS and FBI as part of a task force to combat sexual exploitation in Alaska.
Such cases are complex, and extremely difficult to charge, explained Adam Alexander, Assistant District Attorney for the State’s Office of Special Prosecutions, “The perpetrators of these types of offenses are instinctively drawn to vulnerable populations as victims, and people who manage prostitute enterprises are almost by definition, or often times, are sophisticated business people.”
Charging documents in the case paint a detailed picture of how particular web-sites tutor clients in etiquette to exchange money for sexual favors, and the elaborate ways large sums of cash are managed by traffickers.
At one point the documents describe a Ziploc bag full of bills changing hands inside a Fred Meyer grocery store as a check is written out on the top of a grill.
During one six day period the lead detective observed 90 patrons enter one of Tran-Lau’s parlors, all of them men.
There’s also evidence of international flights and border crossings to bring workers from California to Anchorage.
Though multi-agency investigations are time consuming and resource intensive, Alexander said they fit with a growing push in to combat sexual exploitation. “Our offices here with the Alaska Department of Law are pretty aggressively investigating allegations of sex-trafficking state-wide, and unfortunately we’re seeing an increase in the number of cases.”
“We look forward to our day in court,” said defense attorney Steven Wells. “We’re going to raise a vigorous defense, and anticipate a jury will find Ms. Tran-Lau not guilty.”
An arraignment is scheduled for next week on December 16th.