Two Arraigned in Connection with Extensive Criminal Enterprise Involving Human Trafficking
Operation Spanned Multiple Communities Including Bedford, Billerica, Medford, Reading, Wilmington, and Woburn
SOMERVILLE – A Medford woman and a Woburn man have been arraigned 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 arraigned today in Somerville District Court on charges of Trafficking of Persons for Sexual Servitude (1 count each), Deriving Support from Prostitution (6 counts each) and Keeping a House of Ill Fame (1 count each). At the arraignment, each pleaded not guilty to the charges. Judge Neil Walker set bail at $250,000 for both Chen and Keplin, with the conditions that they surrender their passports, remain on home confinement, and be monitored by a GPS device if they are released on bail.
Chen and Keplin were arrested yesterday 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.
The arrests were 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.
Yesterday, State Police officers assigned to the AG’s Office, HSI agents, and local law enforcement officers executed search warrants at the six businesses. At the time of the execution of the search warrants, Chen was arrested in Reading and Keplin was arrested in Woburn. Chen and Keplin were arraigned today in Somerville District Court. They are due back in Somerville District Court on June 13 for a probable cause hearing.
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 District Attorney’s Office, the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office, investigators with the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure, 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.