As many as 17 people were arrested in the US in relation to a sex-trafficking network which forced Thai women into the profession after luring them for a better life in the US.
Hundreds of women were reportedly forced into debt bondage in different states of US, authorities said on Wednesday. Many of them had loans ranging from $40,000 to $60,000. These women were placed in prostitution houses to pay off the loans.
"They promised women in Thailand a chance at the American dream, but instead exploited them, coerced them and forced them to live a nightmare," said Andrew Luger, US attorney for the district of Minnesota, in a statement.
The authorities had been investigating the case for more than two years and arrests were finally made on Tuesday. The ring is believed to have been operating since 2009. Among the arrested were 12 Thai nationals and five Americans.
"Once in the United States, victims were allegedly placed in houses of prostitution, where they were forced to work long hours -- often all day, every day," the Department of Justice said in a statement.
The women were placed in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Minneapolis and Minnesota.
"The women were not allowed to leave the prostitution houses unless accompanied by a member of the criminal organization," the department said in a statement.
Investigation in Minneapolis began after authorities noticed Thai women being taken to restaurants and hotels regularly.
"The 17 people charged in this indictment ran a highly sophisticated sex trafficking scheme," said US Attorney Andrew Luger of the District of Minnesota. "They promised women in Thailand a chance at the American dream, but instead exploited them, coerced them and forced them to live a nightmare. In short, the victims lived like modern day sex slaves."
They have been charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, fraud, coercion, forced labor, money laundering and visa fraud.