Hong Jing, 49, of Irvine, Calif., received an 8.5 year sentence on Feb. 9, 2018, for her role as one of the ring leaders in a sex-trafficking operation that spanned more than half the country. (Courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff's Office)
ST. PAUL—A ringleader in an international sex-trafficking operation will spend 8.5 years in prison — and she should "thank her lucky stars" it isn't more, her public defender said during her sentencing Friday morning.
Hong Jing, 49, of Irvine, Calif., was one of the "boss ladies" in an international sex-trafficking ring that exploited foreign-born women from China and Korea, her co-defendant previously said.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi previously described the case as "the most sophisticated sex-trafficking operation (he'd) ever seen," and both the public defender and the judge said it was one of the most challenging cases in their decades in the courtroom.
Jing helped traffic hundreds of women around the metro area to Blaine, Cottage Grove, Maplewood, Oakdale, St. Louis Park and St. Paul as well as to more than 20 other states, court documents said. Meanwhile, she purchased a $1 million home in California and drove a 2017 Mercedes-Benz using money from the operation, authorities said.
Many of the victims were beaten, raped and robbed while being trafficked.
"I don't know how many hundreds of women you helped victimize," Washington County Assistant Chief District Judge Susan Miles said at Jing's sentencing. "What you did had a huge impact on not only your countrywomen, but members of this community as well as your community in California and untold communities around the U.S."
Jing, who has a history of prostitution charges, showed little contrition at her sentencing.
Against the advice of her attorney, Craig Cascarano, she argued, through tears and a translator, that her co-defendant had lied and that her role in the scheme had been exaggerated. She said that if she had heard her co-defendant's testimony earlier, she might not have pleaded guilty.
Cascarano agreed her co-defendant's testimony may not have been completely honest, but he still knew the potential consequences of withdrawing the guilty plea: prosecution in 39 other states or federal indictment resulting in a 20- to 25-year sentence.
"The plea negotiations she received were extremely favorable, and had the state known then what they know now, they would have never offered her this negotiation," Cascarano said. "We were glad to take it initially and, as you can tell, I was anxious to make sure the court would sentence her to that today because chances of being indicted in federal court were overwhelming."
She was sentenced to 102 months for racketeering and 76 months, served concurrently, for aiding and abetting sex trafficking.
The sentence did not depart from standard sentencing guidelines.
Her co-defendant, Dongzhou Jiang of Blaine, is expected to be sentenced to 68 months later this month, Cascarano said. Jing believed she should have received a similar sentence.
"This plea negotiation is extremely beneficial to you," Miles said. "The victims of your crimes have arguably paid a much, much higher price than you're paying today."
Jiang pleaded guilty in August and will be sentenced later this month.
Jing's daughter, Fangyao Wu, also pleaded guilty, but avoided prison because her role in the operation was limited. The fourth defendant in the case, Sophia Wang Navas, is awaiting a jury trial scheduled for July.