Prostitution gang that included Leeds couple jailed for running 'sophisticated' brothels

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An organised crime gang that ran a series of brothels across Leeds and other cities in the north of England, had trafficked girls from across the world.

Four members of the group, including a couple from Bramley, were jailed at Leeds Crown Court today, with a fifth being handed a suspended sentence, all charged with conspiracy to control prostitution.

Judge Tom Bayliss KC described it as a “sophisticated” operation in which girls were brought in and rotated across various sites, with some gang members tasked to collect money and others to place hundreds of adverts for sexual services across websites. More than £170,000 was also deposited into bank accounts from the operation.

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Two of the gang were found guilty after a trial, with three others admitting their involvement mid-trial.

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Jianfa Huang, age 66, of Myrtle Close, Sheffield, was handed a 43-month jail term, having admitted the offence, along with conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of others with a view to them being exploited. He only changed his pleas to guilty after the jury had been sworn.

Foong Mai Chang, age 51, admitted her involvement on day seven of the trial, along with her husband 49-year-old Yuhua Chen, both of Henconner lane in Bramley. They were both given 16 months’ jail.

Jia Yin Xie, age 34, of Sandbeds, Bradford, continued to deny the charge and was found guilty by the jury. He was given 18 months’ jail. Kong Fei Lee, age 47, of High Street, Corsham, Wiltshire, was handed an eight-month sentence, suspended for 12 months.

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During the trial, prosecutor Katherine Robinson said that a police investigation was launched in February 2020, having been alerted to multiple adverts placed on a classified website seemingly by the same person.

It was found that Huang had placed more than 800 adverts between January 2018 and March 2020, spending more than £10,000. Money received from the business was paid into various accounts, including those belonging to Chen and Chang.

The brothels were later uncovered at West Point Apartments on Wellington Street in Leeds city centre, where up to 10 males a day were seen attending the flat. Neighbours even received leaflets telling them there was a brothel operating. Another operation was set up on Park Row in Leeds. There were also brothels found in Doncaster, Bradford, Sheffield and Liverpool operated by the same gang.

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It transpired that Huang was the “right-hand man” of a woman known as Wen Ning, who was overseeing the operation. She was previously arrested, but having been bailed, fled the country and is still at large.

It was accepted that none of the sex workers, who came from both the UK and beyond, had been coerced into working, but Judge Bayliss still said they were vulnerable.

Huang received money and placed the adverts, along with moving the sex workers between sites. Chen and Chang helped rent and maintain properties and collecting cash in accounts for a number of months. Xie’s job was to collect cash from the brothels, while Lee was only involved in a short space of time, helping to pay for adverts.

Mitigation for Huang suggested he was unwell and was also looking after his unwell wife. For Chen and Chang it was pointed out they had no previous convictions, along with Xie. Lee, who continued to maintain his innocence with Xie, has five children, three of whom have special needs.

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Judge Bayliss told them: “Each of you knew precisely what you were doing. For those who involve themselves in the exploitation of others and seek to gain financially, it’s necessary to impose a prison sentence.”

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