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Queens Chronicle

Guilty plea in AG online ad sex sting

Flushing man fesses up to charges related to Backpage pimp operation

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:33 am, Thu Apr 25, 2013.

A Flushing pimp pleaded guilty to enterprise corruption on April 15, after being nabbed in an online sex and money laundering sting by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Wei Qu, 51, was part of a larger-scale takedown of Somad Enterprises, Inc., which created, monitored, facilitated and used online, print and cable ads to promote prostitution across the tri-state area, using outlets such as the Village Voice and Backpage.com to promote its illegal services.

Qu faces one to three years in state prison and a $45,000 fine.

“[The] guilty pleas are part of our ongoing effort to ensure that those who participate in large-scale, lucrative prostitution-based money laundering operations — including advertising bosses who use seemingly legitimate businesses to hide their roles in these illegal activities — are held accountable,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

The ad agency, Somad, also pleaded guilty before Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter to the same money laundering charge.

The case was the result of a 16-month joint investigation by the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the New York City Police Department that uncovered the illegal operations headed by Somad, that was run out of an office in Manhattan, and remote locations in Queens, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Philippines.

The investigation resulted in a Queens County indictment which charged 19 people and the corporate defendant with a variety of crimes, including enterprise corruption, money laundering, falsifying business records, promoting prostitution and top narcotics possession and sales charges.

During the course of the arrests and executions of search warrants last fall, investigators found two women who were the victims of human trafficking by two of the ringleaders of the operation.

Investigators from the Schneiderman’s office and the NYPD rescued the two trafficking victims from locations in Manhattan and, in coordination with Sanctuary for Families, brought them to a safe haven. The investigation is ongoing.

Through the use of electronic surveillance, physical surveillance and the review of bank records and tax-related documents, in conjunction with other investigative tools, the attorney general’s investigation identified Somad.

According to a review of Somad’s financial documents, between Jan. 1, 2010 and Oct. 2012, prostitution businesses paid in excess of $3 million in advertising dollars.

The prostitution groups relied on Somad’s well-established relationships with media to secure discounts for the criminal enterprise’s clients. The prostitution managers controlled the flow of money from johns, hookers, drivers, house mothers and Somad.

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