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Married couple accused of keeping Chinese women as sex slaves

A husband and wife in New Hampshire ran an interstate sex trafficking ring, targeting Chinese women and forcing them to sell their bodies while depriving them of food and clothing, federal prosecutors allege. Sou Chao Li and Derong Maio, a pair of 37-year-old Chinese nationals living in Concord, enticed Chinese women to work in the...

A husband and wife in New Hampshire ran an interstate sex trafficking ring, targeting Chinese women and forcing them to sell their bodies while depriving them of food and clothing, federal prosecutors allege.

Sou Chao Li and Derong Maio, a pair of 37-year-old Chinese nationals living in Concord, enticed Chinese women to work in the prostitution industry by promising daily earnings of hundreds of dollars at various locations they operated throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont between July 2016 and February, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

“Some of the Chinese females were employed outside the sex trafficking and prostitution industry when they first arrived in the United States, but were unable to earn a wage substantial enough to repay debts associated with their travel to the United States,” according to unsealed indictment filed in US District Court for the District of Maine.

The women typically spoke little or no English and had very few or no contacts in either of the three states to assist them, federal prosecutors claim.

After the women were recruited by Maio over WeChat, he and Li forced them to have sex with clients in hotel rooms and residences throughout the region. They also paid other co-conspirators to advertise the women on the now-shuttered Backpage.com and deprived them of “documents, food, clothing, room keys and other items” to ensure that they were unable to leave the locations, prosecutors allege.

If convicted on sex trafficking charges, both Li and Maio face up to life in prison. They also face conspiracy charges and counts relating to Li possessing the passport of one of the victims, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 and mandatory restitution.

Li and Maio pleaded not guilty to all charges during court appearances on Thursday, the Portland Press Herald reports.

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