Local News

Fayetteville pair charged with human trafficking

Posted November 18, 2010 12:35 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2010 4:15 p.m. EST

— Federal authorities have charged two Fayetteville residents as part of an international investigation into human trafficking.

FBI agents and U.S. marshals arrested Seok Wo Cho, 58, and Hye Kyung "Tae Hee" Chon, 44, on Wednesday morning outside DaVinci Internet Cafe, at 5548 Yadkin Road. Cho owns the business, which allows people to play sweepstakes games online and provides other services like sending faxes.

"This network operated behind the facade of businesses represented as legal enterprises, but their cover has been blown," FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice Fedarcyk said in a statement.

The Fayetteville arrests are part of a federal investigation based in New York City, dubbed "Operation Seoulmate" that charged 21 people with transporting prostitutes between several states in the Northeast, North Carolina, California and Texas.

"Trafficking in human flesh and sexually exploiting women for financial gain is all too common and simply will not be tolerated," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Cho and Chon are charged with conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking and violations of the Mann Act, a federal law prohibiting the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes. Cho also faces money laundering charges.

A federal indictment states that they arranged to bring prostitutes to North Carolina and Georgia from New York and Korea. They spoke many times with others charged in the case about the prostitution business and how many clients they had, according to the indictment.

The indictment also states that Cho tried to send $25,000 in drug profits to Korea.

Cho and Chon were scheduled to make their first court appearance Friday morning in Raleigh.