By Jake Dominy
Tucked away near the Louisiana – Texas border is a small old town whose main street harks back to French Colonialism. A historical marker indicates the French Catholic Cemetery. Numerous old homes seem to be centered around the town center. Walking across the street to the set meeting location, a café in what appears to be a very old building in marvelous condition. I note the water against the curb is over ankle deep and that curb, like all the curbs here appear to be very high. I don’t own a pair of boots. My thoughts return to over 20 years ago when one of my University Professor’s told me covering stories in small towns would get my feet wet. Today that is literally happening.
My contact, my source, my informant has insisted in more ways than one that they’re anonymity must be preserved at all costs. The contact I will refer to as “Source” explains quickly that the great danger they fear is not the actual crimes itself. But rather those behind them. High level people in California, Texas and New York City, prominent attorneys, businesses even elected officials are involved they say. Source has thus far refused to speak with anyone he does not feel comfortable with. Several years ago, Source says they tried contacting a writer who wrote about the conviction of his former employer Jong Mao who is also referred to at times as Kimberly Mao. We sit towards the back of the café in a booth Source chose where he sits back towards the wall in order to see out the front window and watch the front door. The inside of the café smells of fresh coffee and bread foods. Over that we discuss an international human trafficking operation, money laundering, die hard Christian fundamentalism and motocross.
“This entire story is absurd,” Source says.
It’s like something from a Tarantino Film without most of the violence. But don’t think violence did not happen, he adds. When Kimberly Mao paid a local doctor one summer a little more than a million dollars for a sprawling horse ranch in Palestine Texas, most of the locals thought she was just another wealthy city dweller seeking a rural retreat.
But after the 47-year-old Hacienda Heights California woman purchased the property and built a 4000 square foot custom home. Bulldozers began cutting a winding course of bumps and berms into the soil, turning the tranquil farm into a raceway for the fast-growing sport of motocross. Neighbors were outraged. “People move to the country for peace and quiet, not to live next to a motorcycle track,” said residents.
Then things got even more interesting.
She also purchased another large pristine horse ranch from an Insurance Executive in Madisonville along I45 for several more million dollars. Then paid bulldozers to create another motocross track. A large building was also erected with docks for semi-tractor trailers and apartments were even built on an upper floor.
Source claims to have worked directly for a man who began working for Mao and brought him with him. Mao had relocated from California to Texas and was allegedly going to expand operations in Texas. That in itself does not seem unusual based upon the current tax rate in California. In case you are not aware, not only are the taxes high but the state now has an “exit tax” for when you move or leave. Source states these people were organized crime figures who he believes operated Internationally. Source thinks they came to Anderson and Madison County because they knew people here who provided a safe environment to live and run they’re businesses. He also believes they were partners in the business.
On April 18, 2006 Jong Mao was arrested in Madisonville, Texas, for allegedly heading a multimillion-dollar prostitution and money laundering conspiracy. In a 40-count federal indictment, the government said she hid profits from her brothels in Inglewood, South Gate, Baldwin Park and Dallas in the East Texas property and four other tracks she owned in California, Texas and Florida, collectively named MX Oasis.
She plead not guilty and was set free on bail.
Federal prosecutors say Mao’s case reveals the vast reach of global organized crime from prostitutes’ home countries in Asia and Latin America to brothels in Southern California and finally to farm communities in rural Texas. A US Immigration official conceded in 2006 that
“There’s a highly organized logistical network between Korea and the United States with recruiters, brokers and intermediaries.”
A Los Angeles police spokesman said that about 90% of the department’s 70–80 monthly arrests for prostitution involve Korean women and Los Angeles police estimates that there are 8,000 Korean prostitutes working in that city and its suburbs currently.
The US State Department report also states that the South Korean government “fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”. In 2012, the government continued law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking, and signed MOUs for the Employment Placement System (EPS) with five additional countries and conducted numerous anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. The Korean National Police Agency also cooperated with foreign law enforcement agencies to crack down on human smuggling networks.
But Roger Jon Diamond, the Santa Monica lawyer who represented Mao, said the government was trying to bootstrap a questionable low-level prostitution case into a major prosecution to feed “a Conservative administration pandering to its right wing, fundamentalist, evangelical base.”
“To use an old expression, they have made a federal case out of this,” he said.
He also said Mao didn’t know anything about any prostitution her tenants may have conducted.
Federal action against prostitution involving foreign women “trafficked” by brothel owners has been a Federal administration priority with both political parties. Justice Department officials say they have tripled the number of sex trafficking prosecutions since the early 2000’s alone.
In an operation in San Francisco and Los Angeles prior to Mao’s arrest, hundreds of federal agents and local police swarmed massage parlors, chiropractic offices and apartments suspected of being brothels, arresting 45 people and detaining 150 suspected prostitutes.
No trafficking charges resulted, though two alleged San Francisco brothel owners pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of alien harboring.
These raids led directly to Mao’s indictment, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Carmen Luege. The case has not produced trafficking charges either.
Ironically, what Diamond calls the “fundamentalist, evangelical base” could aptly describe Mao. Deeply religious, according to those who know her, she sent her teenage daughter to an evangelical Christian private school in the San Gabriel Valley.
Federal tax records show that Mao contributed heavily to Christian groups. In 2004 alone, her charitable foundation donated more than $170,000, including $40,000 to her Hacienda Heights church, Hosanna Presbyterian, and $95,000 to MXers for Jesus, a group that holds religious services at motocross races. Neither officials from the church nor the MXers group can be currently located.
In the family-centered world of dirt bike racing, Mao was known for her devotion to her longtime partner’s son Adam Chatfield budding motocross career. Her partner was interesting enough arrested by the U.S. Marshals on a warrant for an entirely different matter.
The 64-year-old boyfriend was arrested at Mao’s property on FM 322, just outside the Palestine city limits. Anthony Brian Chatfield, whose Texas driver’s license lists a Greenville address, was arrested without incident by Anderson County sheriff’s authorities on a warrant out of the United Kingdom for “tax revenue,” according to Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor.
Anthony Chatfield’s name used to pop up everywhere in the world of motorsports in the 1980s. With a bewildering variety of cars to include a former LeMans racecar.
Prosecutor Luege said these businesses “would not stand on their own. If you shut off the illegal income, the businesses would not survive.”
On top of the purchase price, Mao “must have spent $50,000 to $80,000 getting the track ready,” said Charles E. Dickens, a jewelry store owner whose cattle graze next to Mao’s track. “I know how much it costs to lease the earth-movers and equipment. I’m a businessman. It just didn’t make sense to me.”
The government, in its indictment and a 74-page search warrant affidavit, alleged that the real source of the money for the tracks were six brothels Mao owned in Southern California, including a tanning and foot salon and a massage parlor in Inglewood, two health clubs in South Gate and a massage parlor in Baldwin Park.
an advertisement from one of Mao’s former brothels in Lakewood
A US State Department report titled, “Trafficking in person’s report: June 2008”, states that in “March 2008, a joint operation between the AFP and DIAC broke up a syndicate that allegedly trafficked South Korean women to a brothel and was earning more than $2.3 million a year. Police allege the syndicate recruited women through deception about the conditions under which they would be employed, organized their entry into The United States under false pretenses, confiscated their travel documents, and forced them to work up to 20 hours a day. Of further note the number of people who operate with trafficking rackets to ship Korean women into the sex trade in America reaches into the thousands
Mao hid her involvement through elaborate fronts, the government alleged. Three others charged with her were, Edward Lutt, Charles E. Fields and Randall Johnson who posed as owners of the businesses while funneling the bulk of earnings to Mao, according to the affidavit.
In 2002, for instance, Randall Johnson, the legal owner of Health Therapy in Baldwin Park, reported making $29,000 in profits, while paying Mao $550,000 in “consulting fees,” according to the indictment.
The pattern was repeated by the other businesses, authorities contend. From 2000 to 2005, Mao’s firm, ZNC Plaza Inc., received $6.6 million in “royalty payments” or consulting fees from the businesses owned by Lutt, Fields and Johnson, the government alleged.
All plead not guilty, along with Mao originally. Though a few years later they all ended up pleading guilty in Federal Court.
Source says they were very guilty. He says they were guilty of much, much more than what they went down for.
When asked why he points out that he saw the operation from both an administrative stand point and from ground zero. Many of the people who were quoted in news stories were for damage control. Originally, he says they thought they could make this federal case go away. They had stories written that were nothing more than publicity pieces, to try and make Mao look like a bona fide pillar of the community.
“Hell she had a journalist living with them in Palestine on they’re payroll.”
The Journalist living in the house in Palestine was Andrew Campos. A freelance journalist who met Mao on the racing circuit and oddly was her spokesman until she pled guilty.
“She was a motocross mom,” said Andrew Campo,
Mao purchased a motor home to transport her son and his motorcycles to races across the country and arranged for home-schooling to free his schedule. Her racetracks were both a business venture and an investment in her son, Campo said.
Campo, who lived at the Palestine residence with Mao and her family, said his boss’ days revolved around her son’s grueling daily training, which began with bike prep at 7 a.m., followed by morning gym workouts and riding through much of the day. Mao prepared healthy fare for her son and other racers in training. Campo says Mao charged riders $15 a head to practice their moves on weekends. Eventually, she planned to develop a series of nationally sanctioned races, which would draw thousands of spectators to her tracks and build lodging at the tracks for the spectators. She even ran errands for them, so they wouldn’t be interrupted, Campo said.
There had been arrest and investigations on the west coast Source said. He claims Mao also had brothels in the Houston and Austin area that did not come up on the Federal radar.
Authorities have proven Mao operated illegal brothels in Los Angeles and Dallas, using legitimate businesses such as chiropractic offices, acupuncture clinics, spas and tanning salons as fronts for her operation.
Our nervous informant in the old café stated that Mao, brought new girls to the house outside of Palestine where they often stayed initially before being sent out to work at one of the numerous brothels. The girl’s passports were kept in Madisonville at the large commercial building with the truck docks on the bottom floor.
“Have you ever seen a young mother unwillingly separated from their child? It’s not a pretty sight.” -Source
Federal agents raided the suspected brothels, where as many as 18 women worked. All of them were illegal immigrants prostituting to pay off smuggling fees, according to an ICE spokeswoman who declined to be named. Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said Mao would have to turn over her properties if “the government can prove they were acquired with proceeds from illegal activities.”
In addition to the property in Phelan, MX Oasis also has motocross facilities in Beaumont as well as Marianna, Fla., and two in Texas. Madisonville and Palestine. Therefor brothels in Houston as Source claims is not only possible but very likely true. The government also seized bank accounts and private residences, according to the ICE report. “ICE worked with its law enforcement partners here and overseas to dismantle the entire organization,” said Kevin Kozak, acting special agent in charge of ICE investigations in Los Angeles. “We are targeting not only those responsible for the alleged smuggling of the women but also the illicit financial activities and monetary assets that supported this criminal enterprise.”
Source says local authorities in Texas likely did not fully cooperate with Federal Authorities in the case because Mao was in business with them. He believes the reason she set up business specifically where she did was because of guaranteed protection that she paid for. In all the records of the investigation and operation that took place one does not see any Municipal, County or State agency’s participating except in the custody of her boyfriend whom the U.S. Marshalls contacted Anderson County Sherriff Greg Taylor, who then simply called Anthony Chatfield in Madisonville and asked him to meet him in Palestine, so the US Marshalls could take him back the England.
Looking back a few years we found that in 1988, Mao was charged with pimping and conspiracy, and in 1995 she was charged in Los Angeles County with keeping a house of ill fame. Records indicate she was not convicted on any of the charges.
According to a search warrant affidavit filed in the current case, a woman at one of Mao’s buildings told an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent that Mao had confided that she once worked as a prostitute. Her attorney Diamond denied the allegation.
The lawyer compared Mao’s situation to a hypothetical case of vendors at Staples Center selling beer to underage customers. “Should Jerry Buss or Donald Sterling be held responsible?” Diamond asked, referring to the owners of the Lakers and Clippers. “It’s possible there was an isolated act of hanky-panky” at Mao’s properties, Diamond said, but “that doesn’t make the whole enterprise illegal.”
I’m told back when they were executing the Federal Search Warrants at the Oasis MX motorcycle track in Madisonville Texas they discovered numerous passports of females with notebooks and a few other items that they describe as accounting based. Source admitted he knew full well the operation was shady before working there.
“There were no passports for the girls from Mexico he says, those girls usually don’t have things like that.”
The passports found were from counties in Asia and Europe.” Source says. He goes on to explain that moving illegal aliens is not new in Texas. “Usually they are here to work and it’s all about labor. These girls were more like slaves and those running them lived like Kings.”
“Before this, the only illegal thing I ever done was make runs for them.”
When asked what making a run is his response is that it’s transferring something illegal from one place to another. “Making a run.” There are probably lots of terms he explains. People change what they say by how paranoid they are.
Source explains that the “runs” usually were delivering the illegal drug methamphetamine to locations within Texas. Generally, they were dealers or people who broke the drug up for dealers to traffic. Other times he transported people. Other times he went and purchased items from toiletries to cosmetics and then delivered them. Sometimes he delivered prescription medications.
When asked about using drugs himself, he adamantly denies ever using any illegal drugs. That’s why they trusted me to deliver things and transport people who were not even supposed to be here, he says.
“When I was working for them even though I was a lackey. I thought I was special. The reality is they knew me better than I knew myself and more importantly. They knew they could control me.”
Source explains one thing led to another and he was a full-time gopher with a regular paycheck and a 1099. He says that Mao and her boyfriend had big plans and very powerful partners in Texas.
“What I thought was the real money was what I was being paid cash for. I was always paid cash after or before making a run. Sometimes I did other things, mainly gopher work.”
Source says all the illegal things they did were paid for with cash. It was not uncommon for Source to have several thousand dollars at one time.
Mao, he explains was instrumental at taking people from the gutter of society and making them feel good about themselves. She was the type who can inspire loyalty in others. She was very good at understanding people and knowing what they needed and then she would provide that. They always would love her for it.
Alan McDonald, the caretaker who maintained the property in Palestine believes that Mao is innocent, he called her “the best boss I’ve ever had.” She offered to help pay his medical bills after his hospitalization for a heart condition, McDonald said.
McDonald claims that she also prayed a lot, “She prayed for two hours straight,” he said.
Mao’s almost 4,000-square foot, two-story house at 6032 FM 322, approximately 3 miles south of Palestine, valued at $442,580 was destroyed by fire later. The house was in the process of being seized by the federal government.
When asked if he knew how it burned down Source says “they” had the house burnt down. Source stated that he was there when it happened but will not go into detail for fear of incrimination. He thinks Mao collected insurance on the house after it burned but is not certain. In addition, he suspects there may have been some things in the house they wanted destroyed.
“She and her boyfriend had powerful friends in Texas you see. Her going down was not only embarrassing it was also very dangerous for a lot of people. She lost all that support in a short time. When she came from California she came with a lot of money, influence and power. The Federal Government cut off the money and destroyed her influence. The powerful friends she made in Texas either abandoned her or maybe even helped take her down. Others would rather not know her and distanced themselves.”
Source stated that Mao was protected by local authorities and even some state officials. Who exactly? He is not sure and says that’s one thing that frightens him. He claims his supervisor for lack of a better term had a stroke after the indictments but before the sentencing and he saw the opportunity to duck out before anything happened to him. Source says he knows more than one District Attorney was involved with Mao. He knows a local pharmacist was because he picked up numerous prescriptions for girls working as prostitutes and then delivered them. He also talks about a high-level attorney in Madisonville who was close with the District Attorneys and he suspects more than one Sherriff knew as well.
“Mao was on very good terms with local authorities anywhere she had property or business. I mean very good terms. Just real friendly with those people.”
Authorities have alleged Mao operated illegal brothels in Los Angeles and Dallas, using legitimate businesses such as chiropractic offices, acupuncture clinics, spas and tanning salons as fronts for her operation. “The Source” still sitting with us in the café explains that they kept some of these girls on narcotics. He thinks they were addicted and it was used to further control them.
“These girls could not leave you see. They had no identification, and some could not speak English as well as they thought they needed too.”
Mao was not incarcerated in the Federal Prison system for very long. As a matter of fact, she has been out for some time now. Anthony Chatfield her partner or boyfriend spent time in Horfield Prison in England and obviously was released many years ago as he was photographed and seen with Mao at her daughter’s graduation. Once he was out of motor racing he apparently has been quite adept at staying under the radar. His son is still in Motocross and has developed a healthy career. He appears to keep considerable distance from Mao and his father.
Jong Mao currently lives in NYC – New Jersey area and we are told she lives in abundant luxury though she may not retain as much money as she did 10 years ago. Interesting enough she is well connected to several women who own and operate licensed massage parlors, wellness centers and the types of businesses Mao was accused of being in control of 10 years ago that were prostitution rings. Not too surprising. Citing information from a Federal complaint in Manhattan, the complaint depicted a thriving industry in which so-called brokers in South Korea purported to offer immigration services to young women and helped them obtain fraudulent visas to come to the United States. In some cases, the complaint said, the women fully intended to work as prostitutes.
About a year ago, as part of an undercover operation, Authorities in NYC raided a brothel called Blue Angel and found bundles of cash, customer appointment sheets and financial ledgers, the complaint said.
The police also recovered a computer file that contained more than 70,000 entries of phone numbers and notes that appeared to describe the brothel’s customers, according to the complaint, which was signed by Justin Ellard, a special agent with the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.
“Diplomatic Security Service?” – you might ask
Correct and they will not release that customer appointment sheet either.
The former manager identified only as CS-1, for cooperating source, told the authorities that the brothels kept a large list of customers who were “approved” to visit the brothels. “When a brothel received an incoming call from a potential customer, the telephone number was checked against the list,” the complaint said. “The list was divided into multiple categories, including, among other things, ‘approved’ customers and suspected law enforcement.”
Federal investigators later discovered that the ring members would trick young women into believing they were with immigration services, helping them obtain fake visas and sending them to the states. Some women were informed they’d be working as prostitutes, according to the complaint—they would be housed in rooms in the brothels and forced to turn over some of their earnings to cover room and board. Some of the women worked in various brothels and were even specially requested by customers. Sexually explicit photographs of the women were used as advertising, and the defendants were allegedly tasked with making and disseminating those ads. Mao was not named anywhere on the complaint or indictments though it is speculated she is involved. Could CS-1 actually be Mao? Did Mao use sensitive information such as a client list of Diplomats and Elected Officials as bargaining power to remain immune from prosecution?