Man pleads guilty to using illegal immigrants in ‘companionship business’

June 7, 2011

A Korean man whose unlicensed business sent women to clubs and bars to flirt, dance and pour drinks faces up to 10 years in prison after his attempt to quash his competitors by turning them in to immigration authorities backfired, authorities said.

Taesan Won, 37, of Annandale pleaded guilty Tuesday to harboring for private financial gain at least six undocumented Korean women who worked for what prosectors called an “outcall companionship business.”

Won, who was arrested in May, will be sentenced Sept. 2, according to Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Since October, authorities said, Won operated a doumi, or helper, business called Honey from his apartment.

Customers at karaoke clubs and bars would call Won when they wanted female companions, court documents said. Won would send “attractive and provocatively-dressed” women to “sing and dance, flirt with, entertain and pour drinks,” according to the statement of facts filed with Won’s plea agreement.

The investigation, conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is part of a broader crackdown, according to Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S Attorney’s Office in Alexandria. Carr declined to comment on the number of such businesses under investigation.

Won entered the United States on a nonimmigrant tourist visa in September 2010 and was not authorized to work during his stay, according to court papers.

About a month after Won opened Honey, according to court papers, a confidential source told ICE agent John P. Torres that Won wanted to provide information about competing businesses in Annandale that employed undocumented Korean women.

But an investigation revealed that Won himself recruited such women through postings on Korean message boards. Many of the women who responded to the advertisements were not authorized to work in the United States.

Won typically charged customers $70 an hour to spend time with the women, keeping $20 in hourly profits for himself. Over the course of six months, Won earned about $3,000 to $4,000 a month as the owner of Honey, the documents state.

Court documents allege that Won did not obtain a Virginia business license and did not report wages and earnings to federal or state tax authorities.

Some of the women lived with Won, according to court documents, paying him $300 in monthly rent. He and a co-conspirator who ran another doumi business also established a $100 per week sook-so, or dormitory, in Annandale for some of the women.

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