Three Lawrence residents, including the principal owner of the Fusion House on Brunswick Pike, have been arrested after a two-year investigation into money laundering, tax evasion, prostitution and human trafficking.
Search warrants were executed on Thursday, Nov. 1, at a restaurant, a spa, and five homes in Lawrence Township, as well as a restaurant in Yardley, Pa, officials said. Search warrants for multiple vehicles were also executed, and financial records are being reviewed by law enforcement officials.
On several occasions, detectives allegedly observed numerous men and women being transported from a residence on Lakedale Drive in Lawrence to restaurants in Lawrence and Yardley, Pa. According to the Mercer County Prosecutor, Lawrence resident Chin Pang Liu was transporting workers back and forth from the home to the restaurants. He owns the house on Lakedale, is the principal owner of Fusion House on Brunswick Pike, and also owns the Golden China Restaurant on Floral Vale Boulevard in Yardley, Pa.
According to the prosecutor, the people housed on Lakedale Drive were employed by Liu at his restaurants and their employment was committed by fraud. The employees were being paid below New Jersey state minimum wage requirements, under the table, without being taxed, and the full-time employees received no employment benefits. The workers were being transported in vehicles bought and provided by Liu, officials said.
During the execution of a search warrant at Liu’s primary residence on Mink Court in Lawrence, large sums of packaged U.S. currency were discovered and seized totaling about $50,000, officials said. A review of Liu’s 2016 personal tax documents showed that he reported an income of about $100,000 for that year, officials said. Financial documents and cash seized during the execution of the search warrants allegedly corroborated that Liu failed to report a significant portion of his income.
Liu, 47, has been charged with human trafficking and failure to pay taxes. The prosecutor’s office intends to ask for conditions to his release pending future court appearances. The human trafficking charge is a first-degree offense, carrying a sentence of 20 years without parole to life in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
The investigation also uncovered that one of Liu’s employees, Yonglian Liu, was a frequent patron of Anna Nails and Massage on Brunswick Pike in Lawrence. He was often seen by detectives taking cash from the spa to the Golden China Restaurant, officials said. Detectives allege that prostitution was taking place at Anna Nails and Spa. Yonglian Liu, 34, and Dong Teng, 45, the owner of the spa, have each been charged with promoting prostitution and maintaining a residence as a place of prostitution. They were issued summons complaints and released pending future court proceedings. The investigation is ongoing.
“This is classic case of people being isolated, exploited and trapped in a forced-labor situation,” Mercer County Prosecutor Angelo Onofri said. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to rescue these vulnerable victims and ensure human traffickers face strict punishment.”
Onofri said residents should report suspicious activity to a local police department. The investigation was initiated in September 2016 when the Lawrence Township Police Department received a tip from a resident regarding people living in a home on Lakedale Drive.