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I-Team: Suspect in high-end brothel network received more than $500,000 in COVID relief funds

High-end brothel defendant received $550,000 in COVID relief funds, prosecutors say
High-end brothel defendant received $550,000 in COVID relief funds, prosecutors say 02:45

BOSTON - The WBZ-TV I-Team uncovered two sex ring websites with explicit nude photographs and a detailed menu of services. Prosecutors seized the sites and shut them down, alleging they were used to advertise the women available at brothels in Watertown and Cambridge. 

Former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer says that often times these women are being trafficked, questioning whether they were acting of their own free will or attempting to pay off debts to secure their freedom. All questions that so far remain unanswered, Coffindaffer tells the I-Team FBI and the U.S. Attorney generally only get involved in egregious cases. 

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors charged a woman and two men with operating a sophisticated, high-end prostitution network across multiple states using upscale apartments. The group allegedly boasted a clientele that included elected officials, doctors, professors, attorneys, military officers, and government contractors with secret clearance. 

Coffindaffer says the clients or so-called "johns" paid for services, possibly crossing state lines in the process. Coffindaffer says charging the men would send a message. 

The male clients allegedly had to provide photo ID and credit card information. In return, they received text messages indicating appointment times and hourly rates. Federal agents claim that over the past few years, the defendants made millions of dollars. 

Coffindaffer says the sex trade business is very lucrative. Women are used over and over, in some cases more than 30 times in a 24-hour period. Coffindaffer says it is horrible and the punishment for the people who commit these crimes is much less than drug dealers, who would potentially spend decades in prison if convicted, making the sex business more appealing to trafficking groups. 

Also lucrative for one of the defendants - COVID-19 relief funds he received. Court documents show that one of the men involved in the ring received over $500,000 in government funds for one of his businesses. 

Coffindaffer says the way some of the businesses may have been structured could have allowed the opportunity to get the funds.
Prosecutors have not yet charged any of the sex buyers in this case, and say their investigation is ongoing.  

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