36 convicted in largest international sex trafficking ring brought down by federal government

Dozens of people have been convicted for their role in a massive international sex trafficking organization based out of Thailand, which sold women in a variety of U.S. cities, including Minneapolis.

A federal jury handed down the convictions for five defendants Wednesday in U.S. District Court in St. Paul. Thirty-one other defendants had previously pleaded guilty in the case.

At a press conference, officials stated that this was the largest sex trafficking ring ever dismantled by the federal government.

“Sex trafficking is an industry that is built on supply and demand and this organization fed that industry,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota Erica MacDonald. “It exploited, it abused, enslaved, and sold women in response to the high demand of commercial sex that exists not only in the United States, but here in Minnesota.”

After receiving a tip about the operation in 2014, authorities in Minnesota managed to take down the international sex trafficking ring in 2016.

The victims, all women in their 30's, were smuggled from Bangkok, Thailand and sold in cities all over the country, including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and D.C.

The U.S. Attorney said that the women were sold like cattle until they could pay off a bondage debt. The operation went on for more than a decade and generated tens of millions of dollars. There were hundreds of victims and thousands of men who purchased these women.

Officials say that many of the women were misled to believe that participating in the scheme would lead to a better life.

“It was an organization that brought poor and vulnerable women from Thailand to the United States where they were forced to engage in sexual acts, every day all day and they couldn’t walk away,” said MacDonald.

Many of the victims are working to rebuild their lives. The defendants in the case will face sentencing next year.