Paul, one of several co-defendants who also began as a victim before rising within the organization to help traffic others.
Victims’ lawyers are rushing to the finish line, expecting a last-minute surge in claims. Paul and Minneapolis is on alert, as its victim compensation plan reportedly is headed to bankruptcy court this week.
In the three years since the law’s passage, the local church has witnessed an archbishop’s resignation, two bankruptcies and the public naming of more than 100 priests credibly accused of child sex abuse.
The charges, announced Wednesday in Minneapolis, say the conspirators transported hundreds of young Thai women with fraudulent visas to the United States to become “modern-day sex slaves.” Authorities say the charges mark a major blow to the enterprise, hitting multiple layers of its hierarchy, including a Thai ringleader who was already in custody in Belgium on separate trafficking charges. Attorney Andrew Luger said co-conspirators ran a “highly sophisticated” scheme that promised the women a better life in America but instead “forced them to live a nightmare.” It is the ninth trafficking case charged since Luger created a human trafficking initiative in 2014, but the first to target an entire enterprise, drawing national attention. They came from impoverished backgrounds and spoke little English, officials said.
Agents fanned out across the United States on Tuesday to round up defendants, including some in the Twin Cities, and will seek the extradition of the group’s boss, Sumalee Intarathong, 55, from Belgium. “We’re talking about pretty much all of the major metropolitan hubs — so the reach of this organization is massive.” Charges include numerous conspiracy counts of sex trafficking, forced labor, money laundering and visa fraud. Traffickers also gathered details about their relatives to threaten them if the women tried to flee, according to the indictment.