Team effort takes down prostitution ring

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published December 19, 2023

 Shuying Ding

Shuying Ding

 Lori Cai

Lori Cai

 Xiaohong Ban

Xiaohong Ban


METRO DETROIT — The Macomb County sheriff and the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office said nine search warrants were executed in six municipalities Dec. 13, busting an alleged prostitution ring that extended throughout metro Detroit and beyond.

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the investigation began in August of 2022. 

“On Dec. 13, the Sheriff’s Enforcement Team, along with (other) agencies, executed nine search warrants in the metro Detroit area for a prostitution and human trafficking investigation,” he explained. “Those search warrants included five massage parlors, two residential locations and two hotel casino rooms in which one of the suspects had rented.”

He added that the massage parlors were located in Mount Clemens, Utica, Shelby Township and Livonia. The residential homes were located in Troy and Livonia. The hotel rooms were at the MGM casino in Detroit, but Wickersham stressed that there is no reason to suspect the hotel or casino had any knowledge of any illicit activity. He added that law enforcement agencies acted after receiving a tip.

“Online sexual advertisements were posted in these establishments. Female workers were soliciting sexual acts to customers,” said Wickersham. “Multiple females involved have a history of solicitation. The majority of these workers had no means of transportation, no place to live and often slept in these spas. They didn’t earn any hourly wage and only got paid based off the tips they earned. They were rotated between locations approximately every 45 days, perhaps sooner if they were not  producing enough money for the spa.”

Law enforcement agencies that took part in the operation included the Macomb County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, the United States Border Patrol, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the Livonia Police Department, the Shelby Township Police Department, the Clinton Township Police Department, the Troy Police Department, the Fraser Department of Public Safety, the Michigan State Police and the Macomb Area Computer Enforcement unit.

“This was a multi-state operation,” Wickersham said. “Women were observed traveling from Michigan to Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Illegal proceeds were being used in casinos, and investigations revealed that some of the funds were sent overseas to China. During the course of this investigation, more than 42 search warrants were completed to aid in the investigation.”

Approximately $35,000 in U.S. currency and $6,700 in Canadian currency was seized, as well as several electronic devices. Wickersham said that the money gotten from the illegal operation was likely being laundered by gambling it in casinos.

There is a warrant for the women for charges of prostitution/keeping a house of ill fame, which is a five-year felony. This included Lori Cai, a 31-year-old Troy woman; 41-year-old Shuying Ding, of Appleton, Wisconsin; and 52-year-old Xiaohong Ban, of Chicago. Authorities said they allegedly either owned or operated the sites of the alleged prostitution. Ban was arrested the night the warrants were executed and was arraigned in 41-B District Court. She made bail of $10,000, with the condition of an electronic tether. Wickersham said that Cai and Ding were out of state and were being sought by authorities. Ban had not retained or been appointed an attorney prior to press time. Her next court date is a probable cause conference scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 27.

“Also taken into custody were seven additional females and a male,” said Wickersham. “All were interviewed. The females ranged in age from age 31 to 58. The male was 25 years of age. Three of the individuals, two female and one male, were turned over to the Border Patrol for an overstay on their visas. Five females were released pending misdemeanor charges,” of solicitation of prostitution, he said.

Patrick Sierawski is an assistant Macomb County prosecutor and the chief of both the Prosecutor’s Office’s Internet Crimes Unit and Human Trafficking Unit. He said their department is hoping to uncover if there is more evidence of other victims so they can be given assistance. He added that the key at this part of the investigation is looking into the 22 phones, the tablet and the laptop seized as part of the investigation. 

“What will make a big difference is when we get the results back from the electronic devices that were seized,” he said. “That will likely give us a far better picture of who was involved and in what ways.”

The nonprofit Turning Point was also described as being an important partner in the investigations, even having representatives go with law enforcement when the warrants were executed to try to render help to potential human trafficking victims as soon as possible.

“We’re very pleased that so much effort is going into solving crimes of human trafficking,” said Sharman Davenport, the president and CEO of Turning Point. “Turning Point provides services for survivors of human trafficking, both sex and labor trafficking, and domestic violence. We provide housing and counseling, and we have a 24-hour hotline, a forensic nurse examiner and other resources so survivors can receive the services and treatment they need after being freed from human trafficking. We even have attorneys that can help with things like immigration issues and translators who can come in during situations like this.”

Wickersham said three of the women accepted the assistance offered by Turning Point, and he described the cooperation with Turning Point as a big step for law enforcement when confronting issues such as human trafficking.

“This is the first time we have taken them with us on a search warrant (execution). They are an invaluable resource … and we’re all trying to work together,” said Wickersham. “Yes, they are committing a crime by performing these sexual acts, but we also know that in many cases they are either being forced or pressured into it, so getting to the root of that is crucial. … Some of the individuals we have spoken to on investigations like this say that, as horrible of a situation as they are in, they would rather live like that in the United States than go back to China. Maybe they were promised a better life coming here, but then they are trapped. … They were prisoners.” 

“We met with the women after this raid to discuss their situation and tell them what we can provide,” added Davensport. “What we really want them to understand is that they are safe and that they don’t have to worry about how they are going to take care of themselves or their children.”

Sierawski said that tracking the money and seeing who else may have been affiliated with this operation will be the next step in the investigation.

“Internet crimes and human trafficking tend to go hand-in-hand, which is why I was brought in,” he said. “We’re still figuring out who is a suspect, who is a witness and who is a victim. … We charged what we could charge at this time. More (charges) may come as we learn more. … Figuring out where the money (for this illegal operation) came from and where it is going is what we are working on now.”

He and Wickersham said that the investigation is ongoing.