March 11, 2021 By Allie Griffin
A Flushing couple has been indicted on sex trafficking charges for allegedly bringing two women into the country from Korea and forcing them into prostitution, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced today.
Jung Ja Ornstein, 62, and Eric Ornstein, 49, allegedly arranged the transportation of the two women from Korea to the U.S. and then forced them to repay their debt through sex work.
In 2015, one of the victims read an advertisement in Korea that promised that she could make money in America.
She called the phone number listed and was told that they would help her get into the U.S., where she would work in the restaurant industry. She was required to pay back $10,000 for the transportation and assistance in obtaining a passport as part of the deal, according to the charges.
When the woman arrived at JFK Airport, she was met by Jung Ja Ornstein who took her to an address on Steinway Street in Astoria. She was told that she would repay her debt as a prostitute, the charges state.
The Ornsteins allegedly forced the woman to have sex with strangers for money at the location. Eric Ornstein found the customers and the couple collected the cash, according to the charges.
Jung Ja Ornstein also allegedly took the woman’s passport and gave it to her husband. The couple returned her passport about two years later in March 2017 and left the victim alone, according to the complaint.
Another victim responded to a similar ad in Korea in 2001 and was told she would need to pay back $10,000 in exchange for the transportation to America, Katz said.
When she arrived in the country, her passport was also taken away and she was forced to work at a bar, where she was only allowed to keep her tips and had to pay for her room and board, according to the charges.
After about a year working at the bar, the woman’s debt was purchased by another woman who made her work in a massage parlor. Eventually, the woman was forced to work for the Ornsteins.
The couple took her to the same Steinway Street location where she was also forced to have sex with strangers in exchange for money. She was allowed to keep her tips but the couple pocketed the rest.
Jung Ja Ornstein allegedly threatened the woman when she expressed that she wanted to leave. She allegedly told her: “You have to work, you owe money. You think I won’t find you?” according to the complaint.
Eric Ornstein would yell and break things if the victims did not earn enough money. He was often seen carrying a metal pipe, Katz said.
The woman worked for the couple at several different massage parlors and in 2017, they told her that her debt was paid and returned her passport, according to the complaint.
Then, about three years later in 2020, the Orensteins found the woman and told her she still had a bill to pay. The woman, fearing for her safety and reputation, handed over $8,500 of her savings to the couple, Katz said.
“I created the Human Trafficking Bureau in the DA’s Office to combat this very problem,” Katz said in a statement. “These two defendants are accused of purposely bringing two women to Queens from Korea and forcing them into the sex trade industry.”
Both Jung Ja and Eric Ornstein were arraigned at Queens Supreme Court on an 18-count indictment charging them with sex trafficking, promoting prostitution and grand larceny among other charges. Both must return to court Friday.
If convicted, they both face 25 years in prison each.