On Thursday, May 2, 2023, King County Sheriff’s Office Detectives arrested two suspects in connection with a two-year-long organized crime and money laundering operation.
The investigation began in January, 2021 after a complaint was lodged by a community member about a massage parlor in Burien. The verbal complaint alleged concerns of prostitution, and other suspicious behavior, occurring at the business.
Detectives looked into the concerns and their investigation led them to nine (9) different businesses spanning four different counties – Benton, King, Snohomish, and Skagit:
On the final day of the operation, Detectives served 11 warrants at multiple locations – including Burien – and seized over $600,000 in US currency.
Along with support from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and The Genesis Project, KCSO also rescued 23 victims, all of whom were offered resources.
The suspects – Jing and Gerald Emtage – were booked into King County Jail. Each has been charged with Leading Organized Crime, Money Laundering, and ten (10) counts of Promoting Prostitution in the Second Degree. The next court date is arraignment, scheduled for May 11 at 9:00 am at the MRJC.
A witness to the bust who works in an office nearby told South King Media about what they saw:
“I kept noticing tons of food-related trash in the communal office bins, which was unusual. Upon realizing they had a pest problem, the ladies asked us to come take a look and talk to a pest control person they had contacted, as they were having a hard time understanding each other. There were two twin beds in the parlor, they had built a shower without getting proper permits from the city, and they had been cooking over an open flame on a carpeted floor, the smell of hot oil leeched into the walls and carpet. “It is heartbreaking to have human trafficking or forced labor so close to home.”
“Successful investigations – like this one by the King County Sheriff’s Office and partners – bring the dangers of organized crime out of the shadows and shed light on the serious issue of exploitation of vulnerable people in our communities,” said Dow Constantine, King County Executive. “Through collaboration at multiple levels of law enforcement and across jurisdictions, the perpetrators are being brought to justice, and the victims are receiving the support they need to move forward. I want to thank all those involved for their diligence, thoroughness, and dedication.”
KCSO would like to recognize all the agencies that assisted and supported them throughout this investigation:
- KCSO Intel Unit
- KCSO Special Assault Unit (SAU)
- SeaTac PD Special Emphasis Team (SET)
- Precinct 4 SET
- Precinct 4 High Visibility Team (HVT)
- Precinct 5 SET
- Precinct 5 Criminal Investigations Division
- Metro SET
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
- Skagit County Task Force
- Kirkland SET
- Richland SET
- Renton SET
- King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
- The Genesis Project
“Organized crime is a disease that preys on the most vulnerable in our society, and it thrives in the shadows of our communities,” said Patti Cole-Tindall, King County Sheriff. “But through coordinated efforts and collaborative partnerships, we can bring these criminals to justice and protect those who are being exploited. I’m incredibly proud of our Detectives and partners who have worked tirelessly to investigate and bring justice to those who have been wronged. It takes the collective efforts of law enforcement agencies, government officials, and community voices to dismantle these criminal enterprises and ensure that those who profit from the suffering of others are held accountable.”
Leesa Manion, King County Prosecuting Attorney, said:
“This case sends a clear message: The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will not turn a blind eye to gender-based exploitation and organized crime in our community, and those who engage in these serious crimes will be held accountable. I am very grateful to our law enforcement partners for their diligent work in this complex investigation. Collaborative partnerships like this are critical for stopping individuals who seek to make a profit by taking advantage of women and vulnerable populations.”
Robert Hammer, Special Agent in Charge at Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle, added:
“HSI is committed to providing assistance to victims anywhere, anytime it is needed in our communities. Those that would attempt to exploit people in exchange for money cannot be allowed to operate unchecked and will find the full capabilities of law enforcement ready to bring them down. Our law enforcement and nonprofit partnerships are a force multiplier throughout the Pacific Northwest in fighting organized crime.”
Charges filed by King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Jing Emtage and Gerald Emtage have each been charged with multiple felony counts by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office related to a criminal enterprise involving the commercial sexual exploitation of dozens of women across four counties in Washington State. Charges include:
- Leading Organized Crime
- Money Laundering
- 10 counts of Promoting Prostitution in the Second Degree
The charges were filed on May 3, 2023, and King County Prosecutors requested $1 million bail – the amount set by a judge.
The next court date is arraignment, scheduled for May 11 at Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
Here’s more info from Prosecutors:
Are there additional potential victims in this case?
There may be many women who are never identified. There’s a large network of these massage parlors and other operations across the country, and they work to move women between the parlors. The investigation is by no means complete – Prosecutors say they can’t speak to specifics, but it is ongoing.
Do these defendants have a criminal history?
Jing Emtage has no known criminal history. Gerald Emtage is currently on a deferred sentence for Patronizing a Prostitute out of King County District Court. According to the docket he was sentenced in that matter on January 9, 2023.
What possible sentence will these two individuals face?
While our office will make a sentencing recommendation, sentences are ultimately up to the judge who makes sentencing determinations based on an individual’s criminal history, offender score, and the statewide sentencing guidelines. In this case, Jing Emtage does not have a criminal history and Gerald Emtage is currently on a deferred sentence for Patronizing a Prostitute out of King County District Court. That charge was a misdemeanor and will not factor into his sentence in this matter. Accordingly, if convicted on all charges, they both will be looking at a sentencing range of 149-198 months (12.4 – 16.5 years).
How would new charges affect Mr. Emtage’s deferred charges?
If an individual completes the requirements set during their deferral period, then their conviction goes away. Since Mr. Emtage is now out of compliance, the new charges will be added to his criminal record.
What do we know about the status and welfare of the victims?
At the time of the service of the warrant, there were community advocates from API Chaya to assist and offer culturally and linguistically appropriate services, as well as advocates from the Genesis Project. Richland PD also had assistance from their Support, Advocacy, & Resource Center, who were on location to meet with the victims, and provide resources to include food and housing as well as access to numerous other resources. These services have been made available to the women, and those who chose to engage have. We know that at least a couple of the women have been in contact with API Chaya.None of the women are being criminally charged; they are being treated as victims. The focus is on shutting down the people that are exploiting them.
How does this compare to other cases Prosecutors have seen?
There have been other significant promoting prostitution charges from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, but the Leading Organized Crime charge is somewhat unprecedented. Given the number of victims, storefronts, and the volume of money involved, this case is significant.
What’s the status of the two defendants?
As of Monday May 8, Jing Emtage remained in custody, but Gerald posted bail on Friday, May 5. Gerald will have to be on EHM with GPS monitoring, per Prosecutors request. They’ve also requested that defendants be ordered to surrender their passports and that the court order that they have no contact with each other and no contact with any of the victims.
What’s next in the court case?
Arraignment on May 11. That’s their opportunity to enter plea, and Prosecutors expect that bail will be addressed at that time.