OMAHA, Neb. -- A California duo was sentenced in federal court in Omaha this week for their role in  a sex trafficking conspiracy.

U.S. Attorney Jan Sharp announced that John Wong, 61, and Joyce Luo, 49, both of Rowland Heights, California, were each sentenced on Wednesday to 366 days in prison. There is no parole in the federal system. After Wong and Luo are released from prison, they will begin a three-year term of supervised release. Wong was fined $50,000 and Luo $5,000.

An investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations determined that beginning in May 2017, Wong and Luo, assisted females in traveling to Nebraska to engage in commercial prostitution. Wong and Luo, who cohabitate, would place advertisements for “Hot Young Sexy Asian Girls” on the website, Backpage.com. The advertisements were directed at customers in numerous cities, including Omaha.

The Backpage advertisements provided a phone number for a prospective customer to call and set up a “date.”  Wong and Luo also facilitated and made travel and lodging arrangements for the females.  Wong and Luo would communicate with the females using WeChat, a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment application.  

There were approximately 5,451 Backpage advertisements posted in 44 cities, including Omaha, using phone numbers associated with Wong and Luo. Once a customer would contact the number associated with a Backpage advertisement listed, Luo, working out of a “call center” in California, would communicate with the prospective customer. Luo would direct that customer to a hotel where a female was staying for purposes of engaging in commercial prostitution.

The females charged customers $160 for a half hour of time and $200 for an hour of time. The female would typically keep a portion of a payment for the commercial sex act. The female would also deposit a portion of the payment into a bank account associated with Wong and Luo.  

Wong and Luo agreed to abandon and forfeit to the government more than $2.6 million dollars in proceeds related to the operation as well as a 2015 BMW X6.

“Defendants, like these, are far more concerned with lining their pockets through the sexual trafficking of vulnerable individuals, than the humane treatment of those they manipulated,” said acting Special Agent in Charge of the Kansas City area of operations R. Sean Fitzgerald. “HSI and our law enforcement partners are committed to the eradication of these types of sex crimes and will continue to work to protect these at-risk populations from harm.” 

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Nebraska State Patrol.