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More arrests made in connection with prostitution and human trafficking ring in Utah County
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More arrests made in connection with prostitution and human trafficking ring in Utah County

(Police officers are seen at Small Rainbow in Orem on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. At least six people were arrested Thursday following an investigation into several massage parlors in Utah County that police say were fronts for human trafficking and prostitution. Stuart Johnson, Deseret News)

AMERICAN FORK – The number of arrests surrounding a prostitution and human trafficking ring in Utah County continues to grow.  Police have taken two more suspects into custody, accused of trying to force one of their victims to flee the city.

As investigators were looking into four massage parlors, two in Orem and two in American Fork, they learned about a woman who was reportedly being forced to provide sexual acts for money.  Police raided the four parlors, arrested six people and gave the victim a place to stay, temporarily.  They also provided her with the phone number of the Asian Aid Society.

However, investigators say the reach of the trafficking ring was longer than they expected.  Police were monitoring the phone conversations of the people who had been booked into the Utah County Jail after the raids, and believe they heard suspects talking about the victim being taken to Chicago.  Arrest records show the victim called the Asian Aid Society shortly afterward, saying she wanted to leave Utah and fly to Illinois.

American Fork Police Lieutenant Josh Christensen says, “We had detectives go to Salt Lake International Airport and intercepted our human trafficking victim along with two other individuals that we were able to tie to the organization.”

Police arrested Xiaoxia Liu and Jing Wang at the airport.  There, they reportedly found evidence of trafficking, like changes of clothes, incriminating documents and $40,000 worth of jewelry.  Investigators believe the jewels are the proceeds the parlors make, and that the victim was going to transport it back with her to Chicago.

Christensen says members of the trafficking ring threatened to harm her family back in China if she didn’t comply with their demands.  Arrest records show she has a husband and son in China, and only left the country for religious reasons.

He says, “They basically threatened that she needed to fly out of the state.”

Technically, Christensen says they arrested the victim, however, they only did that to protect her.

“That was the best way that they could find to keep her safe and keep her from being reached and contacted,” Christensen says.  “We are not interested in pursuing charges on her.  She is a true victim.”

Wang and Liu were both booked into the Utah County Jail on suspicion of human trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, pattern of unlawful activity and tampering with a witness.  Christensen says they don’t know how wide this ring spreads, but they’ve asked federal investigators to assist them.

 

Other Reading:

6 people arrested for reportedly running human trafficking, prostitution ring

UTA to train all staff on how to recognize human trafficking

https://www.ksl.com/article/50103366/3-more-arrested-at-airport-in-utah-county-massage-parlor-raids