A preliminary hearing began today for a couple accused of running a brothel in San Francisco’s Sunset District.
Following a months-long police investigation and a search of their home in the 1800 block of Noriega Street on June 20, Jin Shi and Linjun Wang, both 31, were arrested for allegedly running a brothel.
They both remain in custody on $200,000 bail.
The couple pleaded not guilty on June 25 to two counts of pimping and pandering.
Wang and Shi, who are both Chinese nationals, entered the courtroom late this morning in orange jumpsuits and were both accompanied by a Mandarin translator and a public defender.
San Francisco police Sgt. Kevin Healy, who conducted surveillance outside the home nearly a dozen times during the three months prior to the couple’s arrest, was called to the stand as a witness.
Healy said he spoke with the landlord at the beginning of the investigation. He said the landlord had just started renting the residence to the couple and was worried that illegal activities were occurring inside.
Following the couple’s arraignment in June, District Attorney George Gascon said the arrest was the third brothel in the western part of the city to be busted in the past few months.
Investigators also found newspaper advertisements for the brothel catering to Chinese-speaking customers, Gascon said.
Healy testified that he saw males of different Asian backgrounds going into the home and staying consistently between 20 and 40 minutes.
During the execution of the warrant, Healy told the court he entered the home and spoke with several people inside with the aid of interpreters.
Healy said a man inside the home told him that on a previous day, he had paid $120 in exchange for a “handjob” from a woman in the residence. The man said he had paid the money directly to a woman and didn’t know if the funds were being split with the defendants.
During the search, the sergeant also spoke with two women in separate bedrooms in the three-bedroom house. Healy said one of the women was wearing black lingerie and the other was wearing a silk nightgown.
The woman in black lingerie was given a towel to cover herself up with and when interviewed, she told authorities she was from Hong Kong and had arrived in the U.S. five days earlier.
She told Healy that she had performed sex for money, but insisted it was voluntary and that she was not forced into it.
The woman in the silk nightgown said she had arrived from New York two days prior and wanted to go back.
Both females were offered assistance from police but refused, Healy testified.
Prosecutors previously 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.
During the search of the home, investigators also found $7,000 in cash, numerous cellphones, five bank account records and several passports.
Shi’s attorney said Shi had been previously employed at a restaurant in San Francisco and that he has no criminal record.
Wang also doesn’t have a criminal record, her attorney said.
Police have seized both defendants’ passports and California IDs. Wang’s attorney previously said Wang has a 5-year-old child who does not live in the U.S. and that Wang has the equivalency of a high school education out of China.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News