AUSTIN (KXAN) — Sixteen Chinese women were being trafficked around the United States and Canada by a trafficking ring with suspects in Austin and Waco.
The human trafficking investigation began on Sept 28, 2016, focused in and around Waco. Investigators learned the trafficking ring was bringing women from China and sending them around the country for prostitution.
Search warrants conducted over the last six months in Houston and Austin led to New York City as the primary suspect location, the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office said.
On March 17, a search warrant in New York resulted in the arrest of Ling Yu, who was indicted by a McLennan County grand jury for engaging in organized crime. Two months later, on Tuesday, May 9, Hang Zheng was arrested in Austin on a charge of engaging in organized crime.
There are outstanding warrants for Zhao Chen Shi and Xubin Zou, both on charges of engaging in organized crime. A total of around $57,000 was seized from the suspects, and investigators determined 16 Chinese women worked for the suspects in Waco, Houston, Austin, Brooklyn, Queens, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., Boston, New Orleans, Galveston, Victoria and in Canada.
A search warrant at Hang Zheng’s residence on Thursday uncovered new evidence, as well as $20,000 in cash and a Rolex watch valued at $38,000, putting the total seized from this group of alleged traffickers at $115,000.
The investigators include the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations — Austin, the Houston Police Department, the Austin Police Department and the NYC Queens North VICE Unit.
According to KXAN sister station KWKT, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara noted that the women were often worked out of hotels and motels with contacts made through social media.
He said, “These women come to the United States looking for the American dream and find they cannot get out.” They have no cars, are given little cash and have no way to break free from those they are working for.