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Salt Lake police investigating possible human trafficking ring

Salt Lake police are investigating a possible human trafficking ring, according to a newly released search warrant.
Salt Lake police are investigating a possible human trafficking ring, according to a newly released search warrant.
August Miller, Deseret News archives

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake police are investigating a possible human trafficking ring, according to a newly released search warrant.

The warrant, served on June 3, states that in May, undercover officers arranged to meet escorts using the website backpage.com. In each case, the undercover officers met with Asian women at the Extended Stay hotel, 1220 E. 2100 South, who were arrested after offering to perform sex acts for money, the warrant states.

Two women were charged in June in Salt Lake County Justice Court with misdemeanor sexual solicitation. But the search for a man believed to be the women's pimp continued Wednesday.

According to the search warrant affidavit, "It is alleged and purported that Asian females are susceptible to the crime of human trafficking. It is (this officer's) belief that the women in this investigation are part of a human trafficking organization that preys on Asian woman looking for a better circumstance."

The detective who wrote the warrant went on to state that "Asian woman will answer ads stating that they will offer a better life in the United States. Once the women answer the ad they are forced to pay an egregious amount of money for their passage to the U.S. They are then forced into a life a prostitution to help pay off their debts. Most of the woman get their identification taken away from them in order for the organization to have control over them. The women are also threatened that if they do not comply with the demands of the organization, that physical harm with befall them or their families back home."

Two of the three women arrested told authorities they lived in California, according to the warrant.

The case is not believed to be directly connected to a separate investigation recently conducted by the Utah Attorney General's Office. On June 9, agents executed search warrants on 11 businesses, three residences and four cars along the Wasatch Front. In that case, nine Asian women were located in six businesses and four apartments.

Changfeng Lin, 35, of Salt Lake City, was charged June 12 in Ogden's 2nd District Court with engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony, money laundering, a second-degree felony, and three counts of exploiting a prostitute, a third-degree felony.

Lin is accused of operating at least six massage parlors in Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties where women were paid to perform sex acts on customers.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said it was believed to be the largest collective human trafficking sting in the state, though no human trafficking charges have been filed in the case.

According to charging documents, Lin advertised for massage workers online and in Asian newspapers in California to recruit workers.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam