Suspect wanted in connection with South San Francisco brothel bust remains on the loose 

click to enlarge McLellan Drive in South San Francisco
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • A large-scale sex-trafficking sting reportedly uncovered a brothel operating out of an apartment complex on McLellan Drive in South San Francisco.

Authorities are still hunting for a woman who allegedly ran a brothel with her husband in an unassuming apartment complex across the street from the South San Francisco BART station.

Zhi Liu, 49, who went by Bob, allegedly pimped Chinese prostitutes out of a unit at 100 McLellan Drive until he was arrested during a raid Thursday. His wife, 51-year-old Wei Gou, who went by the name Coco, was not around during the raid and remains on the lam, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

Liu is expected in court today to enter a plea. Prosecutors have asked to increase his bail amount from $100,000 to $250,000.

The brothel had only been operating in South City a month or so, as the couple had recently moved the operation from a San Bruno apartment, prosecutors said.

Thursday's raid was part of a human sex-trafficking sting that included busts of three more under-the-radar brothels in the Sacramento area, according to the California Attorney General's Office.

In February, the U.S. Department of Justice learned that young Chinese women were being rotated in and out of brothels in the Boston, New York, Sacramento and San Mateo County areas, along with China.

"Every 10 days, they were rotating them," Justice Department spokeswoman Michelle Gregory said.

Investigators say more arrests are probable as they're likely dealing with a larger international operation.

The brothels in Sacramento and San Mateo County operated in unassuming locations.

"A lot of these were houses in residential areas," Gregory said.

In Sacramento, the news came as no surprise to one neighbor. A man told the Sacramento Bee that he had suspected prostitution or drugs were being peddled at the alleged brothel in the southern part of that city. Expensive cars would show up at the modest house, often during the lunch hour, and leave after 20 minutes, the neighbor said.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris says the bust is part of a crackdown on sex trafficking statewide, which is on the rise because it is more profitable than drug trafficking and not as easy to detect. Also, the Internet has offered more opportunities to recruit sex slaves, according to The State of Human Trafficking in California, a report from Harris released last year.

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