A husband and wife have been arrested and charged with operating a high-end prostitution ring out of two upscale apartment complexes in Pasadena and Irvine, authorities said Wednesday.
Thanh Ly, 35, and Li Chen, 32, are accused of managing two dozen women, who charged clients $200 per encounter in the discreet residential buildings, said Lt. Tom Pederson of the Pasadena Police Department, which worked with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on the case.
The couple, who were arrested Dec. 16 after a two-year investigation, are being held in lieu of $2-million bail pending a preliminary hearing on charges of pimping and pandering, Pederson said. Four women whose names were not immediately released were also arrested for alleged prostitution.
"These four ladies are U.S. citizens, between the ages of 20 and 45," Pederson said.
Police also confiscated $10,000 in cash, several expensive cars and jewelry worth about $20,000.
Authorities launched their investigation in 2007 based on an anonymous tip.
Investigators took their time exposing the alleged prostitution ring because of initial suspicions about human trafficking, Pederson said. But the women involved were apparently drawn to the business by the relatively high pay, not coercion, police said.
Potential clients learned about the business mostly by word of mouth and had to have been referred by existing customers, police said. An intermediary would then set up an appointment inside the gated residences.
One of the apartment complexes where Ly and Chen ran their operation was on a popular stretch of Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.
Part of the attraction of the upscale apartment complex is that "you need a code to get in. It's a secure area, not a place where you'd be looking for such things to take place," Pederson said. "There is no reason for anyone to believe anything is wrong."
At the time the investigation began, the ringleaders were allegedly renting two units each in two complexes in Pasadena. But when management in one of the buildings became suspicious, the suspects moved their operation, authorities said.
The women were shuttled between the Pasadena building and another stylish residential complex in Irvine, police said.