Monroeville man linked to massage parlor human trafficking, prostitution case gets lower bond
A Monroeville man accused of helping run a human trafficking and prostitution ring out of five massage parlors in Monroeville and Murrysville returned to court Friday asking a judge to lower his $100,000 bond.
Chang Yu Chen, 51, of Monroeville, who was described by the state Attorney General’s Office and state police as a handyman and manager at the massage parlors, appeared before Norvelt District Judge Roger Eckels with his attorney, Duke George.
After listening to arguments, Eckels reduced Chen’s bail to $75,000 and remanded him to the county prison until it is posted. George said Chen’s family will continue trying to raise the amount through a bail bondsman.
George told Eckels that Chen has lived in the country for more than 26 years having been granted permanent alien resident status in 2002. He arrived here as an illegal alien in 1992. George added that Chen has no prior arrests and has a family here.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Katherine A. Wymard had told Eckels at Chen’s March 22 arraignment there were questions from Homeland Security about the origin of Chen’s original passport, and investigators had seized more than $170,000 out of his home in October as part of the yearlong investigation.
Wymard and George told Eckels on Friday that since his arraignment a week ago, Homeland Security has verified the legality of Chen’s current passport. His family surrendered the passport documents to Eckels on Friday.
George also argued that another man arrested in the probe, Robert Delano Yerick, 84, of Delmont, who is accused of a similar role as an administrator at the parlors and a handyman, had his bond set at $30,000.
Yerick is free after posting bail.
“It’s unfair your honor. These two are generally charged with the same thing,” George said.
Wymard countered that Yerick “was not found with $170,000 inside his home.” She also noted that Chen reports an annual earned income of about $20,000, “but had $170,000 in his house.” Yerick has cooperated with investigators.
Chen, Yerick and two others arrested — Hui Xu, 44, of Mt. Pleasant and Huicun Wei, 47, of Flushing, N.Y., whom state police identified as the owner and manager at Judy’s Oriental Massage Parlor in Murrysville — have preliminary hearings scheduled April 12. Xu, who police say owned four of the massage parlors, is in the Washington County Jail after failing to post $100,000 bail, while Wei remains in the Westmoreland County Prison on $75,000 bond.
The four were charged with various counts including conspiracy, corrupt organizations, trafficking in individuals, prostitution and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities after a statewide grand jury found that young women working at the parlors were part of a human trafficking ring forced to perform sex acts. Investigators said the probe began after neighbor complaints regarding clotheslines and cookouts at the massage parlors.
State police alleged Xu owned and operated four Tokyo Massage Parlors where prostitution was occurring.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .