Claremont Insider: Claremont After Dark

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Claremont After Dark

From the Daily Bulletin last week, here's something you don't see every day in the City of Trees and Ph.d's:

Hengxiang Chen, 39, of Alhambra was booked on suspicion of prostitution Tuesday and is being held at the Claremont Jail pending court, according to a police news release.

About a month ago, police investigators received an anonymous tip that an apartment in the 500 block of West San Jose Avenue was being used exclusively for prostitution.

The Bulletin has more information now, including the news that Claremont's alleged house of ill repute may be linked linked to similar operations in the town of Lemoore, California:
The woman who leased the two-bedroom unit in the 500 block of West San Jose Avenue -- Liang Gao -- wasn't present during Tuesday's bust, said the complex's leasing manager.

Police arrested two women inside, and one of the women -- 39-year-old Hengxiang Chen of Alhambra -- said after she was released from Claremont city jail that she didn't know Gao.

The phone number in the 559 area code Gao left on her lease agreement is listed in numerous online advertisements for massage services in Lemoore, west of Fresno.

According to the Bulletin article, Chen maintains her innocence, claiming she was a victim who was visiting the South Claremont apartment for the first time when she was arrested.

This underground brothel may be similar to a multi-state operation run beginning in the late 1990's by a West Covina woman who was convicted last October in federal court. The woman, Jong Ock Mao, was alleged by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials to have amassed over $10 million in assets from her business. The ICE press release for Mao's conviction said:
SANTA ANA, Calif. - A West Covina, Calif., woman, who ran a string of brothels out of chiropractic offices, acupuncture clinics, "spas," tanning salons and massage parlors in Southern California and Dallas, was sentenced today to 18 months in federal prison for her role in the scheme.

Jong Ock Mao, 50, a.k.a. "June," appeared this morning before U.S. District Judge James V. Selna. Mao pleaded guilty to two felony counts in August - conspiring to use interstate commerce to promote prostitution and using the proceeds from her six brothels to purchase real estate. As part of her guilty plea, the naturalized Korea native agreed to forfeit more than $10 million dollars in property and assets she derived from the prostitution scheme. The forfeited properties include four private motocross tracks in California, Texas, and Florida operated by MX Oasis, a company owned by Mao.

Today's sentencing stems from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), IRS-Criminal Investigation Division, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.