Alleged brothel operators kept detailed ledgers, huge sums of cash, feds say

Crime

Two suspects charged with operating the high-end brothel network have agreed to remain in custody while the case is pending.

A brothel ring has been accused of operating out of 66 Bond St. in Watertown, in addition to locations in Cambridge and the Washington, D.C., suburbs. Nathan Klima for The Boston Globe

The suspected ringleader of a high-end brothel network in Greater Boston and Virginia kept meticulous records in a Louis Vuitton shoebox and stored lingerie, pregnancy tests, and bulk quantities of condoms and lubricant in her apartment, authorities alleged Wednesday.

In an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, federal officials argued that Cambridge resident Han “Hana” Lee, 41, and her alleged co-conspirator, Dedham resident Junmyung Lee, 30, pose flight risks due to their lack of community ties and access to vast amounts of cash. 

Han Lee, according to the affidavit, concealed more than $1 million in prostitution proceeds through structured money orders, bank deposits, and account transfers.

She and Junmyung Lee were charged earlier this month alongside a third defendant, California resident James Lee, 68, and accused of violating the Mann Act, a federal law that targets interstate prostitution. Prosecutors allege that the trio, none of whom are related, operated a network of brothels out of apartments in Cambridge, Watertown, and the Washington, D.C., suburbs going back to at least 2020. 

During a brief hearing Wednesday, both Han Lee and Junmyung Lee agreed to remain in custody while the case is pending, according to The Boston Globe. Their lawyers declined to comment following the hearing. 

James Lee was arrested in California and will appear in Massachusetts at a later date.

Feds: Alleged brothel ringleader kept ‘impeccable’ records

According to the affidavit filed Wednesday, Han Lee’s duties included recruiting women to travel from out-of-state for commercial sex work, handling the brothel network’s website and business records, and maintaining the apartments in Massachusetts and Virginia. 

Authorities say Junmyung Lee, her alleged employee, communicated with commercial sex buyers, assisted sex workers with their luggage and groceries, and held at least one brothel lease in his name. He allegedly told investigators after his arrest that Han Lee paid him around $6,000 to $8,000 in cash each month, the affidavit says.

“I believe he purchased his 2018 Chevrolet Corvette using prostitution proceeds,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security Agent Zachary A. Mitlitsky wrote in the affidavit. 

A search of Han Lee’s apartment in Cambridge turned up bulk quantities of condoms and lubricant, as well as lingerie, urinary tract infection testing kits, pregnancy tests, mouthwash, and false eyelashes, according to the court document. Han Lee also allegedly had more than $22,000 in cash, at least 16 cellphones, ledgers, dozens of gift cards, and multiple sets of keys on hand. 

Mitlitsky described Han Lee’s financial and business recordkeeping as “impeccable,” alleging that she kept hundreds of money order receipts for Western Union and the United States Postal Service organized by date, location, and rent amount in a Louis Vuitton shoebox. 

Though she lacked “legitimate employment,” Han Lee also had “lavish and extravagant spending habits,” according to the affidavit, which cited luxury brands Yves St. Laurent, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, and Jimmy Choo. 

Authorities allegedly identified two active Bank of America checking accounts under Han Lee’s name, the records for which showed deposits totaling about $965,000 between December 2019 and October 2023. She also maintains a bank account in Korea, Mitlitsky noted. 

The affidavit states that Junmyung Lee is in the U.S. on a student visa to attend a computer institute in Boston and “as such, he has no discernible income.”

In his apartment, however, federal agents allegedly found $5,000 in cash, four appointment books, two computers, two SIM cards, and six cellphones. 

Prosecutors previously said the brothel network’s hourly rates sometimes ranged from $350 to upwards of $600, depending on the length of the session and the services involved. The commercial sex ring allegedly attracted clients from a number of high-profile professions, including politicians, business executives, and military officers. 

“This commercial sex ring was built on secrecy and exclusivity, catering to a wealthy and well-connected clientele,” acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Joshua Levy said during a press conference earlier this month. 

Authorities have not publicly named or charged any of the suspected sex buyers at this point, citing their ongoing investigation.


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