US prostitution ring linked to 'politicians, lawyers'


US prosecutors have charged three people with running a high-end brothel network out of apartment complexes in greater Boston and northern Virginia whose customers included elected officials, tech and pharmaceutical executives, lawyers, professors and military officers.

Federal prosecutors in Boston did not identify any of the "wealthy and well-connected clientele" that they say paid up to $US600 ($A940) per hour for sexual encounters with predominantly Asian women who were being exploited through sex trafficking.

Acting US Attorney Josh Levy announced charges against the brothels' alleged operators: Han Lee, 41, and Junmyung Lee, 30, of Massachusetts and James Lee, 68, of California.

Levy said the probe was "just getting started" and that investigators were gathering more evidence after executing search warrants at locations in Massachusetts, Virginia and California on Wednesday.

The US government meanwhile seized the domains for two websites tied to the prostitution ring, authorities said.

"We're committed to working closely with our federal, state and local partners to hold accountable the people who both ran this ring and the people who fuelled the demand for this ring," Levy said at a press conference.

The three defendants, who are not related, were all arrested on Wednesday and charged with conspiring to coerce and entice women to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity.

Defence lawyers for the trio either did not respond to requests for comment or could not be immediately identified.

According to charging documents, the defendants, led by Han Lee, used high-end apartment complexes as brothels in Cambridge and Watertown, Massachusetts, and Fairfax and Tysons, Virginia.

Two websites advertised appointments with Asian women and customers underwent a vetting process that included providing their driver's licence photos and employers' names, prosecutors said.

Levy said clients "often paid a monthly fee to be part of this illicit club".

Customers were charged $US350 to $US600, depending on the services and included politicians, pharmaceutical and technology executives, doctors, military officers, professors, lawyers, business executives, scientists and accountants, prosecutors said.