A prostitution network spanning through Boston, DC, and Virginia has been uncovered in connection with foreign intelligence services.
Several high-end brothels and escort services operating in Washington, D.C., and Boston suburbs were an espionage “honeypot” operation conducted by foreign nations to blackmail U.S. officials, according to intelligence experts.
The six brothels that comprised the sex ring were headed by a 41-year-old South Korean woman who allegedly targeted politicians, high ranking government officials and defense contractors.
“Having the Koreans out front could have been a false flag to give China or another country plausible deniability if the plot unraveled,” a former CIA senior operations officer told the Daily Mail.
From the Daily Mail:
Han Lee, the alleged mastermind, Junmyung Lee, 30, and James Lee, 68 – all South Korean-born U.S. nationals – were charged in November with running the sex ring. The three Lees are not related.
Han and Junmyung both live in the Boston area so the locations of four of the brothels there made sense. James lives in Torrance, a suburb of Los Angeles.
Members of Congress, military officers, and national security contractors who ‘possessed security clearances’ were among the steady customers at the ‘high-end brothels’ run by the ring, prosecutors say.
The ring’s clients, who paid rates of up to $600 an hour, included corporate executives, professors, lawyers, and scientists.
To entice customers, the Lees allegedly set up websites whose purported purpose was helping photographers find nude female models looking for work. Investigators believe the ring had made more than $1 million by the time it was busted.
The lingerie and bikini clad ‘models’ went by names such as Sexy Schu, Venus, Tina, YokoDDD and Tiffany.
“The girls start by asking for a small favor that’s at the edge of the target’s comfort zone and try to keep expanding the zone and turn small favors into big favors,” the ex-CIA officer said.
The DOJ first launched an investigation into the massive sex ring in November.
According to a federal affidavit written by a DHS special agent, some of the clients of the prostitution ring included, “politicians, pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, business executives, technology company executives, scientists, accountants, retail employees, and students.”
Prosecutors said the locations of the sex ring was an indicator that the operation was a honeytrap for U.S. officials.
“Two of the brothels operated from units in luxury apartment buildings in the Virginia suburbs outside the capital, which are each about a 15-minute drive from the White House, Congress, Pentagon and CIA,” the Daily Mail reported.
“The surrounding area is packed with national security giants such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics. Boston, where the other four brothels operated, is a haven for defense contractors as well.”
“It’s also home to top-tier universities such as Harvard and MIT that train government and military officials, and produce reports for the Pentagon and CIA,” the outlet noted.
A former foreign spy said the purpose of the blackmail operation is to collect government secrets.
“The most valuable information in Washington and Boston are government secrets,” the spy told the Daily Mail.
“If you open a prostitution business that caters to wealthy clients in those cities, you’ll get a lot of people walking through the doors that have access to them.”
The officials were required to hand over a trove of personal information, including bank records, employer information, credit card information, email and phone contacts, and a government-issued ID to be added to the clientele list, which they usually provided “without blinking an eye.”
“Finding idiots like this would be pure gold for an intelligence service running a honeypot,” the former foreign spy added.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) is one high-profile example of a government official caught in a honeytrap after reports surfaced he had an affair with a Chinese spy named “Fang Fang” in the mid-2010s.
Swalwell lost his seat on the House Intelligence Committee following the revelations.