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LITTLE TOKYO : Trial Ordered in Pandering Case

January 30, 1994|IRIS YOKOI

A Little Tokyo business owner was ordered last week to stand trial on charges of running a prostitution ring that catered to Japanese-speaking businessmen.

After a brief preliminary hearing Tuesday, Municipal Court Judge Richard G. Berry scheduled Yoshifumi Koike to be arraigned Feb. 8 in Superior Court on two counts of pandering and one count of pimping--all felony charges.

Koike, 34, a Japanese citizen who lives in Monterey Park and holds a resident visa, was arrested in October after a two-month investigation triggered by an anonymous tip. He is free on $25,000 bail and faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and possible deportation.

Defense attorney Ron Seabolt sought unsuccessfully at the preliminary hearing to have the charges dismissed, contending that there is insufficient evidence.

Detectives say that while running a legitimate graphic design firm on Boyd Street, Koike also allegedly ran an escort service on the side that he advertised only in local Japanese-language newspapers. Detectives said Koike hired 20 young Japanese-speaking women, most of whom live in the area on student visas. The women met their clients in local hotel rooms and charged $200 per hour, detectives said.

Koike collected $75 per hour from each of his employees and made more than $100,000 from his escort service over the past nine months, detectives said.

Police attributed the success of their investigation to two undercover reserve officers who are fluent in Japanese and familiar with Japanese customs.

Reserve Officer Ron Hasegawa, who posed as a visiting businessman, testified that he called the advertised telephone number twice in August and asked each time, in Japanese, that a female companion be sent to his room.

Hasegawa testified that in the first instance, the woman took a shower soon after arriving and then asked him to take a shower. After a brief conversation and discussion of the $200 fee, the woman said, "Let's do it," in Japanese, Hasegawa testified.

Reserve Officer Randi Tahara testified that she posed as a woman interested in working for the escort service in September.

Later that month, she said she called Koike and he sent her to meet a customer at a hotel. The customer was actually another undercover detective, Tahara said. She testified that she called Koike later and told him, "It wasn't as difficult as I thought. It was just straight sex,' " to which he responded, "Congratulations. Well done."

But under cross-examination, Tahara said Koike never insisted that she have sex with clients. "He said I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to do," Tahara said.

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