To hear investigators talk, Feng Yang Chen was "the boss" of a sex trafficking ring that stretched from Texas to the Town of Tonawanda.
Chen, 41, a native of China, is accused of operating her business out of Flushing, but sending her victims, the prostitutes she is accused of coercing into joining her organization, across the country to meet men.
Chen used Backpage.com to promote a prostitution organization that exploited 12 victims and over the course of five years led to sexual encounters in 12 states, Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth R. Moellering said.
Court papers indicate four of the victims traveled to Tonawanda at various times to meet men and that one of them, a Chinese citizen, was arrested in November of 2014 at a hotel on Niagara Falls Boulevard.
The organization also included a call center in Flushing that scheduled meetings between prostitutes and clients, Moellering said.
“While the sexual exploitation of another is a criminal act that victimizes the person exploited, a criminal enterprise such as this, which provides profits to those who orchestrate such exploitation, is particularly pernicious," Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy said in a prepared statement.
The indictment against Chen also charges two others - LiangLiang Guo, 31, and Cheng Qi Li, 28, both of Flushing - with operating a prostitution organization.
Chen is also charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, and sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.
“The defendant allegedly callously abused and exploited vulnerable women for her own financial gain,” said James C. Spero, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in the Buffalo office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “The charges announced today will hopefully lay the foundation to restore the dignity of those victimized by this alleged criminal enterprise.”
The indictment again Chen is the result of an investigation by ICE/HSI, the Tonawanda Police Department and New York State Police Department.