KINGMAN — A Superior Court judge on Friday lowered the bond for the accused leader of a human trafficking ring.
Amanda Yamauchi, 46, is charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, sex trafficking, trafficking of persons for forced labor or services, benefitting from a sex trafficking venture and unlawfully obtaining labor or services.
Yamauchi also is charged with procuring or placing persons in a house of prostitution, receiving earnings of a prostitute, operating or maintaining a house of prostitution and first-degree money laundering.
Yamauchi’s attorney, Brad Rideout, asked the judge to lower his client’s $5 million bond, calling it excessive. He said he believed it was the highest bond ever set in the county, and that there were no physical injuries to the victims.
Rideout also claimed that federal undercover agents had sex with the victims multiple times, and that there was no evidence that any money that was transacted ended up in Yamauchi’s bank account.
The defense attorney also said Yamauchi didn’t force anyone to work; he said there was evidence that the workers had keys to the massage parlors and were free to come and go.
Rideout said that Yamauchi’s child is enrolled in a Bullhead City school, and that she has ties to the community. Bullhead City police have her passport and she is not a flight risk, he said, adding that Yamauchi has health issues and is a U.S. citizen.
The defense attorney also said the other codefendants have lower bonds or have been released on their own recognizance.
Deputy Mohave County Attorney Megan McCoy argued that there was evidence that Yamauchi was part of an international crime syndicate and that she picked up girls at the airport and brought them to her string of massage parlors, forcing them into sexual slavery.
McCoy said federal agents assisted local law enforcement officers in the two-year investigation into the case. Yamauchi also has greater ties to other communities and has the ability to go undetected, McCoy argued.
“This is a case unlike any other and this defendant should be treated like no other,” McCoy said.
Superior Court Commissioner Billy Sipe Jr. considered Yamauchi’s ties to the community even though she initially gave a Las Vegas address. Sipe also said that Yamauchi faces decades in prison if convicted and could be a possible flight risk. The judge lowered Yamauchi’s bond to $250,000 and set her next hearing for Nov. 26.
Another codefendant, Yuqin Shu, 56, was arraigned Thursday on charges of operating a house of prostitution and money laundering. Shui Mei Ching, 53, recently was arraigned and charged with operating a house of prostitution and receiving earnings of prostitution.
The grand jury also indicted Stephen Clair Hansen, 41, on charges of benefitting from sex trafficking venture and pandering, and Dean Michael Bassett, 52, on charges of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and benefitting from a sex trafficking venture.
Also arrested in the Homeland Security sting were Fang Fang Chen, 45, Chunxia Fang McMillin, 52, and Quan Xiang Ma, 55, who are all charged with prostitution. Dennis R. Weber, 65, also was arrested on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution. They were not indicted by a grand jury, Bullhead City police reported.
Federal agents, along with Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City police officers, raided four massage parlors and one house in Bullhead City, one massage parlor in Fort Mohave, three massage parlors and an apartment in Lake Havasu City and arrested seven people Sept. 20.
Undercover officers determined that sex acts were offered in exchange for money at the massage parlors. The women may be victims of human trafficking and reportedly were forced to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, federal officials said.
Two foreign-born women were rescued. The women lived in conditions described as deplorable and unsanitary. The women were moved about once a week, never knowing the next location. More than $128,000 in cash and $30,000 in gold coins and jewelry were seized.