Wasatch Front Prostitution Ring

Changfeng Lin, the organizer behind the large Wasatch Front prostitution ring busted last month failed to show up in court Tuesday. Changfeng Lin was arrested in early June 2015 for establishing and managing a prostitution ring which was being run at eight massage parlors owned by Lin throughout the Wasatch Front. The illegal business exploited at least 9 women of Chinese descent, including Lin’s own wife.

Photo by: Weber County Jail

Photo by: Weber County Jail

Investigation and arrest

Lin’s massage parlors were advertised with online sites which are known for listing  “happy endings” massage companies. This ad seeking both patrons and workers was a red flag for Utah authorities to keep an eye on Lin. Thus began the ten month investigation of his business endeavors in the Wasatch Front. During the investigation, Lin was seen traveling between the different massage parlors and residences multiple times a day, transporting female passengers from one place to another. Business licenses for each parlor were checked, female workers at the massage parlors were interview, and Lin was later arrested.

Prostitution a statewide problem

Lin’s prostitution ring was not the only illegal business of its kind in Utah. Over the last several years, prostitution has become a growing problem all over the state. There are areas that are known for street prostitution such as North Temple and State Street in Salt Lake City; however online sex solicitation and the use of business or home massage parlors as cover ups for brothels can be anywhere.

Photo by: Pedro Figueiredo

Photo by: Pedro Figueiredo

Prostitution crimes and punishments

Unlike Nevada, there are no areas in Utah where prostitution is legal. The charges and penalties for being involved depend on the suspect’s role in the prostitution ring.

Prostitution. Utah Code 76-10-1302 states “An individual is guilty of prostitution when the individual: engages in any sexual activity with another individual for a fee […]” Prostitution is considered a class B misdemeanor unless is it a repeat conviction, then it’s a class A misdemeanor.

Patronizing a prostitute. 76-10-1303, “A person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute when the person: pays or offers or agrees to pay another person a fee […] for the purpose of engaging in an act of sexual activity […]” Patronizing a prostitute is a class B misdemeanor for a first offense, and a class A misdemeanor for repeat offenses. If the person being patronized is a child, it is a 3rd degree felony.

Aiding a prostitute. Otherwise known as pimping, aiding a prostitute has the same penalties as prostitution and patronizing a prostitute: A class B misdemeanor for first offense and class A misdemeanor for any recurrent offenses.

Exploiting prostitution is a 3rd degree felony and those found guilty of this offense are the ones running prostitution businesses such as Changfeng Lin with his 8 massage parlors.

Aggravated exploitation of prostitution. Stated by Utah Code 76-10-1305, exploiting prostitution becomes an aggravated charge if the person threatens or forces someone to prostitute, or if the prostitute is a child or a spouse. This crime is a 2nd degree felony or a 1st degree felony if a child is involved. Because Lin involved his wife with his illegal business, he is facing aggravated exploitation of prostitution charges.

Photo by: Gabriel S. Delgado C.

Photo by: Gabriel S. Delgado C.

Hopeless with limited options

Why do many choose prostitution as a career choice? For those such as Lin who are running the show, money is usually a big motivator. For those performing the acts, is it their need for physical interaction or the thrill of breaking the law? While there may be a few that choose this path for those reasons, many turn to prostitution because they don’t know what else to do. Perhaps they lack the education or skills needed to get a regular job. Possibly they were victims of sex trafficking at an early age and don’t know a way out.

Support and legal counsel

There are community and online resources available to help those trying to leave the life of prostitution. For those who are facing charges related to a prostitution ring, a criminal defense attorney can help you sift through the legal ramifications of your charges and help repair your criminal record and your life after prostitution.

Counterfeit Coins for Vending Machines

Slugs are counterfeit coins or other objects similar in size, shape, and weight that are used in place of actual money to illegally deceive vending machines.

Photo by: midorisyu

Photo by: midorisyu

Tricking the candy machines

Over 30 years ago, washers were used often to trick vending machines to release a yummy treat or toy. Additionally, many children over the years have tried to use a penny in quarter machines, only to have it get jammed and not get a toy or treat in the end. These were wrong, almost harmless acts done by mischievous kids; however this act of fooling machines has gotten out of hand.

Moving up in the world

There are many machines nowadays that use coins besides candy vending machines. Slot machines, retail self-checkout tellers, and fare teller machines are a few example of equipment that holds a higher value prize than a .10 cent gumdrop. While using slugs or counterfeit coins in any machine is against the law, cheating one of these higher roller devices can cost the business or machine owner an incredible amount of cash.

New Technology

As we neared the 90’s, vending and other dispense machine owners and creators realized how easily their devices were being taken advantage of. They answered by developing new technology such as: sensors that verify the image on the coin and instruments that test the magnetic sensitivity of the type of metal. Counter measures such as these have helped prevent slugs from being used successfully, but it is still a widespread practice today.

Charges for using slugs

Whether someone is tricking quarter machines or slot machines, there are charges for deliberately defrauding any type of coin equipment by using slugs versus actual coinage. Utah code 76-5-515 states that using, making, or possessing slugs or counterfeit coins punishable by law as a class B misdemeanor. For those who are facing charges for using counterfeit coins, whether intentionally or innocently, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Retail Theft in Utah

Retail theft is a growing problem in Utah and other states around the nation.  Shoplifting from any store is against the law, yet many do this knowingly as they either can’t afford an item, or they seek the thrill of the crime.  For whatever reason, these individuals are knowingly committing retail theft.  Besides shoplifting, there are other definitions by law of retail theft that shoppers need to be aware of.

Photo by: Mike Mozart

Photo by: Mike Mozart

Sales at the self-checkout lane

With self-checkout stations becoming more common in stores, it isn’t rare for customers to scan or type in cheaper items than the ones they are taking home.  Ringing in a .50 cent avocado instead of the larger $1 one is still considered retail theft.  This may be done intentionally, or it may be by accident.  Shoppers need to be certain that they are paying the correct price for an item, or find an employee to help.

Price, what price?

Bargain hunters have been known to challenge an overpriced item, only to remove the price tag hoping for a better deal once they reach the register.  According to Utah Code 76-6-602, this deception is considered retail theft, just like shoplifting.  A better solution would take your disputed item with price tag intact to the customer service desk or manager.  It isn’t unusual for them to agree to a lower price to keep a customer happy.

Retail theft isn’t worth it

Depending on the price of the appropriated item and how many previous retail theft offenses a suspect has had, the criminal charges can range from a misdemeanor to a felony.  It doesn’t stop there.  Beyond the criminal charges, stores can likewise file a civil suit for up to $1,000 as a penalty, even after getting their stolen items returned.  If you are facing criminal or civil charges for retail theft, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options on how to proceed with the charges.