Two charged in nationwide sex trafficking with local hub
Two men, one from Massachusetts and the other from St. Louis Park, have been charged with sex trafficking in an operation that brought Chinese women into Edina and Richfield for commercial sex, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.
Sonam Tsering, 36, of Plymouth, Ma. and Zhaxi Taxing, 41, of St. Louis Park, were each charged with engaging in the sex trafficking of an individual. Tsering also was charged with promoting the prostitution of an individual and receiving profits from prostitution. Taxing made his first appearance Monday. Tsering made his first appearance last month.
“This is a highly organized, illegal operation that stretched from coast-to-coast in the United States,” Freeman said. “These women are victims who were preyed upon by the sex-trafficking operators and we are going to do everything in our power to disrupt the commercial sex trade in Hennepin County.”
According to the criminal complaints, Bloomington police were investigating prostitution in November 2016 and came across an ad for commercial sex of an Asian woman in backpage.com. The investigators had dealt with other Asian human trafficking organizations and this one seemed similar so they called the number.
The officer was directed to an apartment in Edina and was met by a woman in lingerie. After identifying himself as a police officer, he tried to interview the woman, but she spoke only Chinese. A translator was arranged and the woman said she came from China to New York before being brought to the Twin Cities to work as a prostitute, the complaint states.
Rental information on the Edina apartment was complicated by false names and social security numbers but eventually officers determined that Taxing was one of the main suspects. He later was seen moving items from the Edina apartment to a Richfield apartment, according to the complaint.
Officers watched the Richfield apartment and saw numerous men going in and out and staying only a short period of time. They also saw Tsering place a garbage bag in the dumpster and inside police found numerous condom wrappers and tissues with bodily fluids, the complaint states. In January, investigators responded to another ad in backpage.com and were directed to the Richfield apartment, where the woman there admitted to engaging in prostitution.
During the investigation, police seized a cell phone from Taxing. On it, they found communications with a woman known to be involved in sex trafficking. The communications told Taxing when to pick up women at the airport, how to take care of them, setting up the apartments and complaints about how they were making less money than their competitors, according to the complaint. Taxing’s bank records, however, show he deposited more than $52,000 in less than five months.
The woman at the Richfield apartment told police that Tsering lived with her and she gave him the money she earned from prostitution and he was then to pass it along to someone else in the organization, the complaint states. In less than five months, Tsering deposited more than $19,000 in his bank account.
Taxing Criminal Complaint (PDF)
Tsering Criminal Complaint (PDF)