On top of worrying about violent johns out on the streets, authorities say Asian prostitutes in the Bay Area are now being targeted in their own homes by thieves lusting for cash.
A woman and two men are facing multiple felony charges in connection with a July 11 home-invasion robbery in San Mateo that police believe was part of a ring targeting sex workers.
About 6 a.m. July 11, prosecutors said, a witness heading to work reportedly encountered a woman dressed in only a T-shirt leaving her apartment building. Her hands were bound behind her back with plastic ties, prosecutors said, but she begged the witness not to call police and gave him a different number to call.
The witness called police anyway, and the ensuing investigation led police to the realization that this wasn’t a random heist.
“She had been the victim of a ring committing home-invasion robberies of Asian prostitutes,” San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
The next day, Wagstaffe said, police arrested Jantar “Kelly” Phun, 32, who was inside a vehicle parked near the victim’s home. The car was filled with the victim’s loot and ID, and robbery tools such as zip ties, bolt cutters, a police scanner and a black beanie cap with eyeholes cut out, police said. One real gun and a replica also were allegedly recovered from the vehicle.
The bust led to the arrest of two other suspects, including Phun’s boyfriend, Samay Tow Pomsouvanh, 35, and Eddie Chi Wei Cheung, 30.
Pomsouvanh was linked to the handgun, prosecutors said, and Cheung was arrested the following day after more of the victim’s property was found in his car.
This is not the first time Phun and other associates have been accused of such crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice busted her and others in an Oakland-based criminal outfit for a series of gun-toting robberies in recent years.
Phun pleaded guilty to her part in the 2007 robbery of a San Rafael massage parlor. After the heist, her crew “drove back to Oakland to divide up the robbery proceeds” and smoke methamphetamine, the Justice Department said.
After that robbery, authorities say, other crew members robbed a massage parlor in El Cerrito and a karaoke club in Hayward. One member, 29-year-old San Kwen Saephan, was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison for the series of robberies.