A federal judge in the Southern District of California partially unsealed an indictment today in which four individuals are charged with conspiracy, interstate and foreign travel or transportation in aid of racketeering (ITAR), money laundering, making a false statement to a mortgage lender, and wire fraud for conduct associated with owning and operating five illicit massage businesses that sell commercial sex under the guise of offering therapeutic massage services in California and Arizona.
According to the indictment, Peter Griffin, 78, Kyung Sook Hernandez, 58, Yu Hong Tan, 56, and a fourth defendant indicted under seal, owned and operated the illicit massage businesses at various times between 2013 and August 2022. Their criminal scheme allegedly included using cell phones, the internet, and banking channels to register their businesses, advertise commercial sexual services online, employ multiple women to perform commercial sexual services in the businesses, manage the illicit businesses’ finances, and profit from the illegal enterprises.
Griffin, who is a retired police officer and former attorney, previously worked as a detective with the Vice Operations Unit of the San Diego Police Department, a unit tasked with dismantling the very businesses he now stands charged with operating and promoting.
Griffin was arrested near his San Diego residence early yesterday morning and made his initial appearance in federal court today. Hernandez and Tan were also taken into custody Thursday and appeared in federal court today. A fourth defendant remains at large.
If convicted, the defendants face up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit ITAR and committing ITAR; up to 30 years in prison for wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and for making a false statement to a mortgage lender; and up to 10 years in prison for money laundering, as well as monetary penalties, and a period of supervised release and restitution.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman for the Southern District of California, and Special Agent in Charge Chad A. Plantz of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) San Diego Field Office made the announcement.
HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of IRS – Criminal Investigation, the San Diego Human Trafficking Task Force, the Escondido Police Department, the San Diego Police Department, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, and the Tempe (Ariz.) Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Streja of the Southern District of California, Trial Attorney Caylee Campbell of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Trial Attorney Leah Branch of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit are prosecuting the case.
Anyone who has information about human trafficking should report that information to the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For more information about human trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.