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Manhattan Prostitution, Drug Ring Bust Ends in 18 Arrests

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TWC News: Manhattan Prostitution, Drug Ring Bust Ends in 18 Arrests
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A large group of people were nabbed Thursday as part of a high-end prostitution and drug trafficking ring in a team effort between the State Attorney General's office and the New York City Police Department. NY1's Vivian Lee filed the following report.

Authorities say the 10 women and two men seen at left are just some of the managers who ran a sophisticated narcotics and prostitution ring that laundered millions of dollars from hundreds of so-called "johns."

They were arrested Wednesday night at a building on West 37th Street, just blocks from Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square. 

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office worked with the New York City Police Department for 11 months to bust the ring, which laundered the money through shell companies and was targeting visitors heading here for the Super Bowl. 

"These people had a phony clothing wholesaler, a phony wig wholesaler, a limo service and dating service," Schneiderman said. "They would show up on people's bills with credit cards."

Schneiderman says the prostitutes were supplied with drugs and would dope up their clients, then call in more prostitutes to repeatedly charge the johns through the night. Investigators believe as much as $3 million was laundered. 

The prostitutes themselves are not charged, but they were offered rehabilitative services after investigators interviewed them. 

"Instead of being branded as criminals, the women were offered help and treated with respect and compassion," said Laurie Cohen of Sanctuary for Families.

"The message that needs to get out there, to the bad guys and bad girls who consistently engage in this type of criminal behavior, that you will be facing the wrath of not just one law enforcement agency, but the collaborative effort among all," said NYPD Chief of Department Phillip Banks.

Internet and public access cable channel ads were used to lure customers, and text messages like the one seen at left promising new and beautiful girls were fired off more frequently to regular clients in the last two weeks. 

One of the principal organizers, Hyun Ok Yoonung, was identified by brothel madams in a separate operation, and was arrested Thursday at a Long Island address. 

Schneiderman called this bust an important one that might help to eradicate what he called the plague of human trafficking, for which he says New York is a gateway.

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