ST. PAUL, Minn. – Sumalee Intarathong has pleaded guilty to her role in a large-scale international Thai sex trafficking organization, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger.
“Today’s guilty plea marks the final conviction in a years-long international sex trafficking prosecution resulting in 37 convictions,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger. “Ms. Intarathong, worked directly with others at the highest levels in the organization to victimize hundreds of vulnerable women for her own financial gain.”
According to court documents, the criminal organization conspired to make money by compelling hundreds of women from Bangkok, Thailand, to engage in commercial sex acts in various cities across the United States. Before her arrest in Belgium on August 5, 2016, Intarathong, 61, served as a boss/trafficker for the organization. Each trafficked victim was “owned” by Intarathong or another boss/trafficker, until the victim could repay an exorbitant “bondage debt” of between $40,000 and $60,000. Intarathong and other co-conspirators arranged for victims to travel from Thailand to the United States and placed the victims in a house of prostitution somewhere in the United States.
According to court documents, Intarathong and other co-conspirators in the organization engaged in widespread visa fraud to facilitate the international transportation of the victims. Members of the criminal organization assisted the victims in obtaining fraudulent visas and travel documents. As a part of obtaining visa documents, members of the criminal conspiracy gathered personal information from the victims, including the location of the victims’ families in Thailand. This information was later used to threaten victims who became non-compliant or tried to flee the organization in the United States.
According to court documents, the organization dealt primarily in cash and engaged in rampant and sophisticated money laundering in order to promote and conceal illegal profits. Throughout the course of the conspiracy the criminal organization has moved tens of millions of dollars in illegal proceeds from the United States to Thailand and elsewhere.
“I’m proud of the HSI agents and law enforcement partners who helped bring Intarathong to justice,” said HSI Saint Paul Special Agent in Charge Jamie Holt. “Intarathong’s heinous acts victimized countless individuals and their families. HSI will continue the work necessary to dismantle and destroy these human trafficking organizations while providing care and support to the victims.”
“For more than seven years, Ms. Intarathong had been responsible for sex trafficking across the nation,” said Justin Campbell, IRS CI Special Agent in Charge, Chicago Field Office. “And like many criminals she tried to hide her ill-gotten gains through legitimate purchases – such as vehicles and real estate. Fortunately for American taxpayers, IRS Criminal Investigation special agents are uniquely qualified to follow complex financial transactions and uncover the source of the illegal funds.”
Intarathong was arrested in Belgium in August 2016 and remained in custody until she was extradited to the United States in February 2021. Intarathong pleaded guilty earlier today before Senior Judge Donovan W. Frank to one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations, Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS, Diplomatic Security Service, St. Paul Police Department, Anoka County Sheriff’s Office, and Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office, with the support of the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2). The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided critical assistance in securing the defendant’s extradition from Belgium.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melinda A. Williams and Laura M. Provinzino are prosecuting the case with the assistance of the DOJ Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.