A Blaine man was charged last week with five felonies for his role in a sex-trafficking ring that spans the Twin Cities and remains the focus of an ongoing search for more victims.
The Washington County attorney’s office charged DongZhu Jiang, 28, of Blaine, with five counts ranging from conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking to promotion of prostitution in connection with the ring, involving multiple Asian women brought to the United States and trafficked in hotels and apartments through Backpage.com.
The operation occurred in several metro cities including Oakdale, St. Louis Park, Maplewood, Brooklyn Center and Cottage Grove.
According to the complaint:
Several metro police departments were tipped off that eight human-trafficking victims had just arrived for commercial sex exploitation. On Feb. 15, police searched an apartment at 301 Shelard Parkway in St. Louis Park, where officers found two women who did not speak English.
The apartment had two bedrooms with a mattress on the floor of each one, with a single nightstand by each bed containing condoms and lubricant. A security camera monitored the two women, and used condoms were found in the garbage can.
One of the women told police she arrived in the United States and met someone in California who was responsible for sending her to Minnesota. Both women said their passports were taken from them.
Oakdale police found advertisements similar to the one that prompted the St. Louis Park search warrant, and on Feb. 17 they monitored a hotel on 10th Street and Interstate 694 in Oakdale. They saw several men entering the room and leaving 15 minutes later. One of the men was stopped by authorities as he left, and he said he responded to a Backpage.com ad and paid $150 for sex with an Asian woman. The woman then checked out of the hotel, but police failed to see the vehicle in which she left.
The next day, Oakdale police responded to the same Backpage.com ad and were offered three locations for sex — Maplewood, Brooklyn Center and Cottage Grove.
Police asked for the Maplewood location and were given an address to a hotel at 2025 County Road D. Police called hotel staff to have the woman evicted. Once she left, she was picked up in a vehicle with California license plates. Police stopped the vehicle, and the driver, Jiang, was arrested, while the woman was taken to a safe location.
In an interview, Jiang said he was asked by an Asian woman he knows as “Grace” to be a driver for Asian female sex workers. He said he was paid $40 per trip and that he holds the money for the women because they are often beaten and robbed.
Jiang allegedly told police the women “need him” because they do not speak English, and they need his help to get transported to the hotels and for protection of the money. He refused to identify other co-conspirators or provide the location of other victims in the metro area.
A search of Jiang’s home in Blaine revealed $27,960 in cash. Police also connected Jiang to a sex-trafficking investigation at a Blaine massage parlor and to two victims out of a St. Paul apartment.