Police bust alleged Chinatown brothel

April 9, 2010 3:03:55 PM PDT
A suspected brothel was busted Friday in Chinatown. The owner is accused of trying to payoff an undercover Chicago police officer with money and free sex.

The investigation that led to the arrests started more than four years ago as a joint effort by Chicago police and federal investigators.

Investigators say the thousands of dollars in bride money went to the undercover police officer. They even staged a fake bust to win the ringleader's trust. It was a case that began locally but grew in scope.

A Chinatown townhouse was allegedly the latest operation of business for a roving brothel, according to Chicago police.

"They would move from location to location?if he felt the heat was on in one location, he would move on to another one," said Chief Ernest Brown, Chicago Police Department, Organized Crime Division.

Chicago police arrested Sheng Quan Dong for running a prostitution operation and paying off a cop. But the cop was actually working under plant.

Dong is charged with bribery and prostitution related offenses. He is a native of China and came to the US 13 years ago seeking asylum, as did his wife, Lia Xia Zhao. She was also charged for operating a place of prostitution.

"He actually did have on-going conversations with the undercover about increasing the payments in order for her to expand the corrupt police protection," said Jack Blakey, Cook County state's attorney and special prosecution.

Four other people were arrested. Police say those arrested include the doorman, two working women and a patron.

"Many of these women end up in this line of business maybe not necessarily voluntarily for a lot of different reasons. Some of them come from abusive relationships or families and have no other recourse," said Anita Alvarez, Cook County state's attorney.

City and county officials said the prostitution investigation began in 2006 and escalated into a federal investigation of an illegal document operation.

None of the people charged Friday were named in the federal case, but officials say the cooperation of several agencies brought illegal activities to light.

"That's one of the unique aspects of this case. You have both the sex trafficking, the document/identity fraud and the public corruption angle that is all happening at the same time," said Blakey.

A neighbor said they noticed a lot of people at the townhouse and that visitors would mistakenly ring their doorbell at all hours looking for the house.

The operators allegedly advertised in Chinese newspapers and on the Internet.