New York - New York law enforcement authorities cracked down on Thursday on a prostitution ring that they said advertised on public access cable TV, took credit cards and used text messages to market “party packs” of cocaine and sex to clients.
Eleven people were under arrest on Thursday, including a Long Island woman who authorities said went by the code-name “Beige” and was the primary ringleader. Seven more suspects were being sought.
Many of the people involved with the organisation were Asian immigrants, authorities said.
In some intercepted conversations, the suspects used “soojaebi”, a Korean noodle and vegetable soup, as a code-word for cocaine.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said the gang had been under surveillance for 11 months, but authorities decided to act now in the hope of disrupting any parties that might have been in the works for the upcoming Super Bowl football championship weekend.
At a midday news conference, Schneiderman held up a credit card reader that he said had been used by the gang, and said investigators had so far identified $3 million worth of charges processed in connection with sex and drug sales.
“We have a plague of human trafficking in New York,” Schneiderman said.
Authorities said records showed that the ring set up phony clothing, wig, beauty supply and limousine businesses to disguise payments and launder money.
Schneiderman said investigators didn't have a lot of information on the sex workers involved in the operation, because women cycled in and out, but he said that authorities considered the women to be exploited “victims”, and said only the managers of the ring would face charges.
The ring marketed its women in racy TV commercials that aired on late-night, adult-oriented cable access television programmes, authorities said.
One recent advertisement for the “Asian Wave” escort service featured a naked woman writhing on a bed, while an announcer promised that the service's escorts were “always a treat, and always fast to your door”.
The attorney general's office said that after some clients were impaired by drugs, the ring would add extra charges to their credit cards, at least once exceeding $10 000 for a single night.