A husband and wife accused of running a brothel out of San Francisco’s Sunset District entered not guilty pleas in San Francisco Superior Court this afternoon.
Jin Shi and his wife Linjun Wang, both 31, of San Francisco, were charged with two counts each of pimping and pandering after they were arrested Friday for allegedly running a brothel in the 1800 block of Noriega Street.
The couple, both Chinese nationals, pleaded not guilty and were kept in custody on $200,000 bail. A Mandarin interpreter was at today’s court proceedings to translate for the couple.
Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai alleged that the couple lived off of the sale of women’s bodies for sex as part of an illegal business that police discovered after receiving an anonymous tip.
A search warrant was executed on Friday at the home and investigators found $7,000 in cash, numerous cellphones, five bank account records and several passports.
The couple was also arrested that day. Talai said there were two women allegedly working at the home, but they were not being held against their will in the three-bedroom home.
A protective order was granted today ordering Wang and Shi to stay away from the women, if they are able to make bail.
Shi’s attorney said Shi is gainfully employed at a restaurant in San Francisco and that he has no criminal record.
Wang also doesn’t have a record, her attorney said.
Police have seized both defendants’ passports and California IDs.
Wang has a 5-year-old child who does not live in America and Wang has the equivalency of a high school education out of China, according to her attorney.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman said that in a criminal complaint Shi had stated that his wife made appointments for the business.
Following the arraignment, District Attorney George Gascon said the arrests came after a two-month investigation with San Francisco police into the alleged exploitation of young women.
He said this is the third brothel to be busted in the past few months in the avenues.
Gascon said this case, and others, send a clear message: “San Francisco is not a place to do human trafficking and exploit young people.”
He said in this case, the women, both believed to be recent Chinese immigrants, were being used for prostitution and the couple was “treating them as merchandise.”
Although the women were not physically held against their will, Gascon said there are usually more subtle power dynamics in play, such as using psychology, finances or simply withholding a passport or identification to keep sex workers at a business.
“Sex workers most of the time are being exploited,” Gascon said.
He called illegal brothels and other sexual exploitation a “growing” problem, especially in certain parts of the city with some members of the immigrant community.
Investigators found newspaper advertisements for the brothel catering to Chinese-speaking customers, Gascon said.
According to Gascon, it appears that the couple is not connected with a sex trafficking case that alleges two sisters, Qiao “Judy” He, 37 and Gaineng He, 36, were running a sex ring out of homes in the Sunset and Richmond districts.
The sisters were arrested earlier this month as part of five-month investigation involving the state Attorney General’s Office, San Francisco police and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit. The sisters remain out of custody on bail.
A preliminary hearing for Wang and Shi was set for July 9.
Sasha Lekach, Bay City News