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NY City officials bust drug, prostitution ring ahead of Super Bowl

By Chris Francescani

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A multimillion-dollar drug and prostitution ring has been busted, New York City law enforcement officials said on Thursday, as they warned Super Bowl fans to steer clear of the city's sex and narcotics underworld.

Ring leaders offered high-flyer clients "party packs" of drugs and prostitutes in three separate operations aggressively pushing both sex and cocaine, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told a news conference.

"Once the "john" (customer) was high or impaired on drugs, they would call in other prostitutes and repeatedly charge the john's credit cards, in excess of $10,000, in some cases, for one evening," Schneiderman said.

The 11-month probe by Schneiderman's organized crime task force, in coordination with the New York Police Department's vice squad, netted more than $3 million in credit card charges alone over the past year, he said.

"Keep in mind that most johns pay cash, so that's a staggering number for an enterprise like this."

The investigation began when two convicted madams who were arrested last year were caught on wiretaps discussing a woman named "Beige" as one of the biggest players on the market.

Hyun Ok "Beige" Yoon, 41, was arrested along with 17 other members of the ring's suspected management, said NYPD Chief of Department Phillip Banks III. They were charged with conspiracy and underlying charges of money laundering, narcotics sales and promoting prostitution.

Schneiderman said investigators had seen a sharp "uptick" in ads ahead of the Super Bowl, when hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected in New York and New Jersey for the event.

He warned those coming this weekend for prostitutes and drugs to stay home.

"Better to get yourself in front of a TV, watch the game, have a couple of beers, and stay out of trouble," he said.

Law enforcement officials declined to quantify the size of New York City's prostitution underground.

Sonia Ossorio, New York City chapter president of the National Organization of Women, who led a push to pass the state's first anti-trafficking law, estimated the number of prostitutes in the City to be at least 10,000.

"If you monitor the Craigslist (online) ads, the Yellow Pages, the massage parlors, the brothels, and the all the child sex trafficking cases, which we certainly do, it's got to be in the double digit thousands."

The New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking has trained 450 volunteers to fan out to hundreds of New Jersey hotels and motels, distributing soap bars labeled with a hotline number to report human trafficking, NJCAHT spokeswoman Mara Gellman.

The action is seen as a possible way to reach victims of human trafficking, she said.

(Reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Gunna Dickson)

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