The feds busted a "sophisticated" brothel network that serviced politicians, pharma executives, and other high-profile clientele.
Moments after the bust was announced, online forums for escort services erupted with worry.
Clients worried that they would be arrested, while others urged people to "shut the fuck up and lawyer up."
Hours after federal prosecutors busted a high-end brothel network — one that allegedly serviced politicians, pharmaceutical executives, military officers, and other high-profile clientele around Virginia and Boston — online forums for escort services erupted into chaos.
"Are we at risk?" one user wrote in a thread related to one of the brothels, located in Boston.
Users on the forum — on which people rate their experience using escort services — quickly noticed this week that the alleged brothel's website had been taken down.
"What precautions should we take? Do they intend to go after clients? The language on the news and the document shared seems unclear on that. I'm very worried and scared right now," one user said.
The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against three defendants accused of operating a "sophisticated" brothel network in the Boston area and in eastern Virginia. The defendants — Han Lee, James Lee, and Junmyung Lee — were charged with conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity.
Federal prosecutors allege that the defendants primarily advertised the brothels using two websites: bostontopten10.com and browneyesgirlsva.blog. The websites featured nude and semi-nude photos of Asian models and offered "appointments" to meet with the women.
Lawyers for Han Lee and Junmyung Lee did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Attorney information for James Lee was not immediately available.
Online forum users started to worry
One user posted a comment titled, "I am scared," in a thread related to Boston Top 10, writing, "So with this new of Btt I am kinda scare that I will get arrested and my name being outed and my loss if my job."
"Did BTT get busted?!" another user wrote.
"Assume that's who it is," someone replied. "Similar way it happened with BAD I guess," they added, an apparent reference to a sex-trafficking ring that was shut down by the feds in Georgia. "I haven't used BTT in a while but my info was probably given up like with BAD."
The mood was similar in a subreddit for escort clients.
"I'm really worried," wrote one user. "I have gone to them several times. They are a well reviewed place with a USASexguide thread with thousands of posts. I thought seeing well reviewed place would protect me from this."
Users also warned each other to stay mum if they were approached by law enforcement.
"As has been said several times already, if the cops show up asking questions, shut the fuck up and lawyer up," someone wrote in the Boston Top 10 forum.
Others wrote that rather than legal peril, they believe those facing the biggest risks related to the sex-trafficking bust are public-facing clients who could be embarrassed if their names get out.
"The issue is that if the list somehow becomes public, it would constitute a near fatal blow to certain people on the list," someone wrote in the Boston Top 10 forum.
"If you are, let's say, a full professor at the major university in the Boston area … or an executive at a major pharmaceutical company, or … a congressman, you will be in the deepest shit possible if your name is linked to this story, even without any formal charges against you," they wrote.
Another user noted the amount of information about clients that Boston Top 10 requested, including a selfie while holding a driver's license up to one's face; a photograph of the potential client's ID showing the name and date of birth; and a "work email verification."
"I'm glad I never participated," the user wrote in the forum after laying out the requirements.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment when asked if prosecutors are planning on charging others connected to the brothel network. But the acting US attorney for the district of Massachusetts said in a news conference Wednesday that the investigation is still in its early stages.
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