A man and a woman in the east Valley are accused of operating the Arizona arm of a multi-state prostitution ring that trafficked women from Thailand, according to court documents.
Erik Christopher Dunham of Chandler and Patcharin Koibuchi of Tempe, both 46, have been booked on charges of money laundering and prostitution after a three-year investigation involving local, state and federal agents.
Dunham is out on bond and was at his home in Chandler on Thursday night. We had exclusive video of Dunham outside his home. According to court documents, he paid for two late-model cars and a motorcycle by co-managing a prostitution ring.
Detectives say the pair placed advertisements for Thai escorts on backpage.com and used two apartments in Tempe as brothels. Investigators also linked Dunham’s phone to another operation in Las Vegas, Nevada, according to court documents.
Starting in January, detectives set up undercover surveillance on Dunham and started tracking his finances and phone records. After months of surveillance, a Tempe police officer set up an appointment for a “full service” Thai massage through an ad on backpage.com website. Police conducted a “sting” operation on April 20.
Officers executed search warrants April 26 on apartments in the 800 block of East Curry Road and the 700 block of West Baseline Road in Tempe, along with Dunham’s home in the 2000 block of East Carla Vista Place in Chandler. They found more than $20,000 in cash and four Thai girls, according to a probable cause statement. One of the girls was hurt as she tried to flee.
"When the police had come in and done the raid yesterday, and we became aware of it, we thought it was involving drugs," said one neighbor who didn't want to be identified. "This is really the last thing that we expected. You hear about this stuff on TV and on '60 Minutes,' but you never really think it's going to be in your backyard."
Police said the three other girls were questioned and admitted to being prostitutes for Koibuchi and Dunham. In exchange for being smuggled out of Thailand and brought to the United States, investigators say the women’s documents were held until their “debt” was repaid by performing sex acts for money.
"It's upsetting that something like this is going on across the street from me when I have small children," the neighbor said. "Definitely want to get more involved with who is living here and get to know them better."
According to investigators, Dunham admitted to “co-managing” the prostitution ring with Koibuchi, and splitting the profits 50-50. He said Koibuchi had the contacts in Thailand to supply the girls while he was the business manager, and he made about $3,000 a week from the operation.
Koibuchi, a native of Thailand, overstayed her visa and may be subject to deportation, according to her arrest records.
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