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2 Held in International Prostitution Ring

Crime: Tijuana police say the O.C. men placed ads in Mexican papers and that women allegedly were sent to Japan.

May 04, 1996|LEE ROMNEY and DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

BUENA PARK — Two Orange County men who were believed to be leaders of an international slavery ring that lured an estimated 1,200 Mexican women into prostitution in Japan have been arrested, Mexican authorities said Friday.

Isamu Fujii of Anaheim and Shuitsu Sato, 45, who investigators said had a home in Buena Park, were arrested in Guadalajara last week, said Daniel Hirsch Gonzalez, an investigator with the State Judicial Police in Tijuana.

The ring was connected to four Mexican cities, including Tijuana, and operations might have extended to Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil, officials said.

Ring operators placed advertisements in Mexican newspapers asking for waitresses and cooks, and then lured respondents to Japan by promising them glamorous jobs, said Antonio Torres Miranda, commander of the State Judicial Police.

The women ranged in age from 18 to 30, he said.

"They said they were looking for artistic talent. The women were asked if they were singers. If they had a nice body or a beautiful face, they were asked to be models," Torres said. "They were deceived."

Thirteen other suspects, including three Japanese women, are believed to be at large in Japan and the United States. Hirsch said authorities in the United States are investigating the ring, but have asked that Mexican officials not disclose any details.

Neither Buena Park nor Anaheim police knew about the investigation, police spokesmen said.

Buena Park police spent Friday fielding media inquiries about Reox Co., identified in a published news report as a front for the ring.

"We have no record of this company Reox," Buena Park Police Lt. Robert Gonzales said. "We checked and we also had the Fire Department check as well."

Investigators were led to Fujii's and Sato's home addresses through telephone records of calls made between those residences and Guadalajara, Hirsch said.

Bank records also indicated that Southern California played a key role in the ring. "The money all went from Japan to California, and from California it was wired to Guadalajara," Hirsch said.

Hirsch added that the women were flown from Mexico to Los Angeles and then to Japan.

Torres said the operators took advantage of the goodwill between the Mexican and Japanese governments. Mexican citizens are not required to have visas to enter Japan as tourists and only must show their passports. The women entered Japan easily and were then coerced into prostitution, he said.

The group was investigated in a number of Mexican states, but Torres said they operated in part out of an office on Tijuana's busy Avenida de la Revolucion.

About two months ago, three women managed to seek help from the Mexican embassy in Tokyo, he said, and the probe was launched.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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