California and Arizona massage parlor owners are accused of selling illicit sex services.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in the Southern District of California unsealed a Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment charging four individuals with” conspiracy, interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering (ITAR), money laundering, making a false statement to a mortgage lender, and wire fraud” related to operating five illegal massage parlor businesses that sold commercial sex in California and Arizona.
The indictment alleges that Peter Griffin, 78, Kyung Sook Hernandez, 58, Yu Hong Tan, 56, and a fourth unknown defendant owned and operated the businesses between 2013 and 2022. The DOJ also alleges that the defendants “conspired to launder the proceeds of their criminal activity by using shell companies and bank accounts in various names to hide the source of the funds.” Furthermore, they are alleged to have made false statements to mortgage lenders in order to receive property loans. The businesses were registered using cell phones, the internet, and banking systems. Commercial sexual services were advertised online and employed women to perform these services.
In a stunning turn of events, Griffin, a retired police officer and former attorney, has been charged with operating and promoting the very type of businesses he once worked to take down. As a detective with the Vice Operations Unit of the San Diego Police Department, Griffin was tasked with outing illegal businesses, many of which were involved in the sex trade. However, after his retirement, the former detective allegedly began to operate and promote similar businesses and he was arrested earlier this month outside of his residence. Griffin’s co-defendants Hernandez and Tan were also taken into custody. It is unclear if the unnamed defendant was as well.
The former massage parlor owners face up to “five years in prison for conspiracy to commit ITAR and committing ITAR; up to 30 years in prison for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and for making a false statement to a mortgage lender; and up to 10 years in prison for money laundering, as well as monetary penalties, and a period of supervised release and restitution,” according to the DOJ.
In 2018, investigators found more than 240 massage parlors listed in San Diego County and, according to the reviews on RubMap, a website rating “sex parlors,” 173 offered sex services for a price.
The website includes a statement saying that the company is “wholly committed to raising awareness of the human trafficking issue…In the event we become aware of any incident of trafficking, we take swift internal action and cooperate enthusiastically with state and federal law enforcement officials.”
The businesses that the defendants operated, and its illicit purposes are a form of human trafficking even if the women employed gave consent. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking is “a form of modern slavery” and it occurs in nearly every state across the country. There is a free nationwide hotline available to those who believe they have been victims of trafficking or who believe they’ve witnessed it. The number is 1-888-373-7888.