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Operator of Virginia ‘doumi’ escort business sentenced

The business was called “Da Bong,” “Romance” or “Coco,” but the services it provided were always the same. For $70 an hour, an attractive and provocatively dressed woman would join customers at an Annandale bar for a night of flirting, dancing and singing.

In and of itself, the “doumi” operation was not illegal. But the girls it employed were often illegal immigrants, recruited from Korea to work in the less-than-reputable profession. That made the man who hired and harbored them guilty of a crime.

On Friday, the business’s owner, Youn Sok Chang, was sentenced to two years and nine months in federal prison. As Chang stood with his hands behind his back, U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III warned him that his business “demeans women.” And how Chang chose to run it, he said, broke the law.

“What you cannot do for sure, ever, is to harbor illegal aliens,” Ellis said.

Prosecutors had accused Chang, 41, of harboring more than 25 illegal immigrants from Korea to work for his business, housing some of them at homes in Falls Church and Annandale. The business, court filings show, catered especially to customers at Korean businesses in Centreville and Annandale, such as Cafe Seouli and Cafe Tu Ah.

“Doumi” (pronounced DOH-mee) means helper in Korean and is used to refer to women who provide entertainment services.

Chang, a South Korean immigrant who has maintained various residences in Falls Church, Annandale and Gambrills, Md., pleaded guilty in May to conspiring to harbor and induce illegal immigrants to live in the United States. In court Friday, he mentioned his two young sons as he apologized to the judge.

“I’m so sorry, and just give me one more chance to live life good,” Chang said.

The sentence of two years and nine months was at the low end of the range prosecutors requested. They wrote in court filings that such a term might persuade others who manage doumi businesses not to hire and harbor those in the country illegally.

“There are other doumi companies operating in Fairfax County, and it is likely that they are or will seek to harbor illegal aliens to further their businesses,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Frank wrote. “Undoubtedly, they will pay close attention to the sentence Chang receives.”

In his plea agreement, Chang said he charged customers $70 an hour to “converse with, sing, and dance with” the women he provided. The woman would receive $50, according to his plea agreement.

Prosecutors say the business operated from December 2010 to February 2013. A man who worked with Chang, Taesan Won, pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to a year and three months in prison in connection with the operation, court filings show. Frank said in court Friday that Chang took over the business after Won’s arrest.

Chong C. Park, Chang’s defense attorney, said in court filings that Chang should receive two years in prison, saying that his client was “not a violent man” and that his crime did not involve “sex trafficking, prostitution, force or coercion.” Park wrote that Chang’s alcoholism was “one of the overriding factors” in his breaking the law. He declined to comment after the sentencing.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.

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