Two Arrested in Connection with Extensive Criminal Enterprise Involving Human Trafficking
Operation Spanned Multiple Communities Including Bedford, Billerica, Medford, Reading, Wilmington, and Woburn
WILMINGTON – A Medford woman and a Woburn man have been arrested in connection with running an extensive criminal enterprise involving human trafficking, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. Authorities allege that the extensive operation spanned multiple communities including Bedford, Billerica, Medford, Reading, Wilmington, and Woburn.
Xiu J. Chen, 32, of Medford, and Ronald Keplin, 57, of Woburn, were arrested today without incident by State Police assigned to the AG’s Office and agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from various local police departments. Chen was arrested in Reading and Keplin was arrested in Woburn. Chen and Keplin are charged with Trafficking of Persons for Sexual Servitude (1 count each), Deriving Support from Prostitution (6 counts each) and Keeping a House of Ill Fame (1 counts each).
Chen and Keplin are due to be arraigned tomorrow morning in Somerville District Court.
“We allege that these individuals ran an extensive local human trafficking organization through what outwardly appeared to be legitimate businesses in multiple communities,” AG Coakley said. “The trafficking of women is often insidious and out of public view, but it is happening right in our own communities. Today’s arrests are due to a collaborative effort between our office, HSI and our local police partners and we thank them for assisting in this investigation and these arrests.”
“Few crimes strike at our community the way human trafficking does,” said Michael Netherland, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of HSI Boston. “The grim reality is that human trafficking and sexual exploitation are a very real part of the modern world. HSI and our law enforcement partners in Massachusetts are committed to bringing these criminals to justice and rescuing their victims from a life in the shadows. We will continue to fight the battle to end human trafficking both here in the United States and around the globe.”
These arrests are the result of an investigation by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office, in conjunction with agents from HSI and officers from various local police departments, into allegations of human trafficking and prostitution in multiple Massachusetts communities.
Authorities allege that Chen and Keplin operated six businesses that were portrayed as massage parlors but were in fact fronts for an extensive human trafficking operation. The businesses are:
- Bedford Asian Bodywork a/k/a Bedford Wellness Center – Bedford, MA
- Shrine Spa a/k/a Billerica Bodywork a/k/a Boston Chinese Club – Billerica, MA
- Mystic Health Center – Medford, MA
- Body Wellness Center – Reading, MA
- Body Language – Wilmington, MA
- Asian Bodywork a/k/a Woburn Wellness Bodywork – Woburn, MA
During the course of the investigation, authorities developed evidence indicating that Chen and Keplin were the leaders of this operation, running a profitable and organized criminal enterprise through these businesses that had been set up as fronts for illegal activity. Through these businesses, Chen and Keplin allegedly offered sexual activity between women they employed and their clients in exchange for a fee.
Authorities allege that together, Chen and Keplin coordinated the recruitment of women from across the eastern seaboard, including New York. They advertised sexual services on websites known to advertise prostitution, set up appointments for sexual encounters for the women, and managed the financial aspects of the organization. They also allegedly arranged for overcrowded housing for the women and facilitated the daily transportation of the women to and from the businesses.
Today, State Police officers assigned to the AG’s Office, HSI agents, and local law enforcement officers executed search warrants at the six businesses. Following the execution of the search warrants, Chen was arrested in Reading and Keplin was arrested in Woburn. Chen and Keplin are due to be arraigned tomorrow morning in Somerville District Court.
The investigation remains ongoing.
Since the new human trafficking law in Massachusetts went into effect in February 2012, the AG’s Office has handled multiple cases. In March 2012, AG Coakley’s Office arrested and arraigned four individuals charged in connection with running a human trafficking operation in and around the Boston area, who were then indicted in May 2012. In October 2012, the AG’s Office arrested and arraigned three operators of so-called massage parlors in Wellesley and Revere in connection with human trafficking and prostitution. They were indicted in January. In December 2012, the AG’s Office arrested a Dorchester man in connection with running a human trafficking and prostitution operation in the Greater Boston area. He and a Plymouth woman were indicted in March.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Deb Bercovitch, who handles human trafficking prosecutions within the AG’s Enterprise and Major Crimes Division, with assistance from Investigator Jaclyn Morrill of AG Coakley’s Financial Investigations Division. Victim Witness Advocate Nikki Antonucci of the AG’s Victim Services Division is also assisting in the case. The investigation was conducted by Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Bristol County Sheriff's Office, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office, investigators with the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) and investigators from AG Coakley’s Computer Forensics Lab. Acton, Boston, Bedford, Billerica, Burlington, Dracut, Malden, Medford, Providence RI, Reading, Revere, Waltham, Wilmington, and Woburn Police Departments also provided invaluable assistance in this case.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPATING LAW ENFORCEMENT:
Bedford Police Chief Robert Bongiorno
"The men and women of the Bedford Police Department were happy to assist the task force in bringing a halt to this type of activity. The victimization of anyone, especially women, is reprehensible, and not the kind of behavior that will be tolerated in Bedford or in any of our communities.”
Medford Police Chief Leo Sacco, Jr.
“The term human trafficking usually causes the average person to think of young girls being abused in far away places internationally, but today’s events demonstrate that it does take place locally, in cities and towns, large and small, right here in the U.S. Thanks to the coordinated efforts of the law enforcement entities involved in this investigation this operation has been shut down.”
Reading Police Chief James Cormier
“I would like to thank Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Massachusetts State Police, the Department of Homeland Security and all the other local police departments that have been involved in this lengthy investigation and its successful outcome. This investigation is a prime example for those who feel prostitution is a victimless crime, it is anything but victimless. Human trafficking has major implications on our communities and its victims, often young females seeking a better life. Our roles as protectors of those who are unable to protect themselves is showcased in cases such as this, the victims of human trafficking are the epitome of those who cannot protect themselves. The Reading Police Department is proud to have worked with our partners to impact this regional conspiracy, we still have more work to do in this very important area.”
Wilmington Police Chief Michael Begonis
“We as local Chiefs are thankful for the work of Attorney General Martha Coakley and her staff for partnering with Local Law Enforcement leaders and investigators and bringing the expertise and resources of the Massachusetts State Police, Homeland Security Investigators and the Massachusetts Division of Public Licensure to bear on a scourge that resides in many communities both small and large. We jointly recognize the bigger picture regarding the effects of Human Trafficking within our communities. Collectively, disrupting and dismantling this criminal enterprise will not only remove the leaders of such an organization from our street but will also provide appropriate services for the young women, who are truly victims, bond to a life of indentured service. Investigating the Criminal enterprise beyond the narrow focus on the local crime of prostitution is an appropriate paradigm shift in investigative philosophy. After many hours of surveillance and investigation by our Law Enforcement partners, today’s operation will remove this predatory criminal organization from our local streets and provide needed services and opportunities to their victims.”
Woburn Police Chief Robert Ferullo
“Today's arrests were the culmination of a cooperative and comprehensive investigation between state, federal and many local law enforcement agencies coordinated by the Attorney General's office. This operation is a significant step in dealing with the wide spread problem of human trafficking and prostitution is our communities. On behalf of the citizens of Woburn I would like to thanks all of the agencies involved in making these arrests and look toward the just prosecution of those arrested today.”