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California woman sentenced for operating large-scale sex trafficking ring

A California woman was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday for her role in a "sophisticated" sex trafficking ring spanning 29 states.

Washington County Judge Susan Miles sentenced Hong Jing, 50, of Irvine, Calif., Feb. 9 after being convicted of felony racketeering and aiding and abetting prostitution charges.

The plea arrangement saw four additional felony charges dismissed.

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Prosecutors say Jing and another California woman, Sophia Wang Navas, were leading a sex trafficking operation that involved shuttling foreign-born women from state to state and eventually to Cottage Grove.

Before handing down the sentence, Miles said Jing's crimes likely subjected hundreds of women to brutal attacks and robberies.

"You either chose to ignore that or minimized that and continued in this operation for your own enrichment at the expense of others," she said. "The victims of these crimes paid arguably a much higher price than you."

The two women, along with Jing's daughter, Fangyao Wu, were extradited to Minnesota after authorities discovered several trafficking victims in a Cottage Grove townhouse.

The victims suffered beatings, sexual assault and robberies at the hands of buyers, according to conversations uncovered during the investigation.

Dongzhou Jiang, a Blaine man who pleaded guilty to assisting the operation in August, described Jing and Navas as "boss ladies" who oversaw the multistate enterprise headquartered in southern California.

Jing, assisted by a Chinese interpreter, tearfully asked for leniency at her sentencing.

Despite pleading guilty to the charges in August, Jing said she had only a minimal role in the enterprise, placing online ads and answering phones.

Prosecutors disagree.

Prosecutor Imran Ali said "overwhelming" evidence in the case indicates Jing knowingly directed the flow of victims from one location to another.

"The most sophisticated person in this courtroom by far is the defendant," Ali said at the hearing.

Jing and Navas' trafficking ring ran from 2015 until last February. Investigators have linked the women to at least 18,000 postings on Backpage.com, a site authorities associated with prostitution, during that time.

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