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Chinese man convicted of trafficking prostitutes to Hawaii

Associated Press logo Associated Press 7/04/2017 By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER, Associated Press
This undated booking photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Public Safety shows Wei Li who was convicted after pleading no-contest to racketeering-related charges. Li is facing deportation to China after being convicted of trafficking Chinese women to work as prostitutes in Hawaii massage parlors. (Hawaii Department of Public Safety via AP) © The Associated Press This undated booking photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Public Safety shows Wei Li who was convicted after pleading no-contest to racketeering-related charges. Li is facing deportation to China after being convicted of trafficking Chinese women to work as prostitutes in Hawaii massage parlors. (Hawaii Department of Public Safety via AP)

HONOLULU — A Chinese man is facing deportation after being convicted of trafficking women from his native country to work as prostitutes in Hawaii massage parlors.

Wei Li, also known as Xin Li, pleaded no contest to racketeering-related charges, the Honolulu prosecuting attorney's office said Thursday.

"This is the first time that a foreign national was prosecuted and convicted of trafficking foreign women into Hawaii for prostitution," Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said in a news release.

Li also brought women from China to work in New York massage parlors, Kaneshiro said.

Confidential informants helped prove the women he brought worked in the Mayflower and Empire Relax massage parlors in Honolulu, Kaneshiro said.

A federal jury on Monday convicted Biyu Situ, who ran the now-closed Mayflower, of bribing federal agents to protect her business from prostitution raids.

Situ offered money to agents in exchange for protection, help with the U.S. citizenship test and recruitment of prostitutes, according to court documents. She made the offer in 2015 after two Chinese women at the massage business were arrested for prostitution during a joint operation with police and federal agents to find potential human trafficking victims, the documents said.

Jurors at Situ's trial heard recordings of her saying she wanted the same protection deal a friend received from police, Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick said.

Prosecutors dropped a prostitution case against her in state court because she was a cooperating witness in the case against Li, said Kaneshiro spokesman, Chuck Parker.

Li was charged with two counts of unlawful ownership or operation of a business.

"We felt it was a more appropriate statute to use according to the evidence," Parker said.

A judge sentenced Li to five years of probation and credit for the year he already served in a Honolulu jail, Kaneshiro's news release said.

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