- Associated Press - Thursday, September 25, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A man and woman who pleaded not guilty in state court to running a prostitution parlor in Minot now face federal charges for allegedly running a similar operation in at least one other city in North Dakota’s oil patch.

Federal court records unsealed Wednesday say Loc Tran, 32, and Trina Nguyen, 32, allegedly operated a sex business in Dickinson after posting bond on the state charges filed in 2013. Court records also cite alleged sex businesses in Williston and Watford City but do not elaborate.

Tran and Nguyen each face eight federal charges including racketeering and extortion stemming from allegations that they lured women from California to work as prostitutes in western North Dakota between 2012 and 2014. Court papers said the couple made promises of “being able to earn large amounts of money” in North Dakota. The couple also allegedly made high-interest loans to some woman and threatened them harm if the money was not repaid, court records said.

The couple is being held in the Burleigh County Jail. U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon said Thursday that neither Tran nor Nguyen had entered a plea on the charges.

Tran is being represented by the federal public defender’s office and Nguyen is represented by Jeff Bredahl of Fargo. The attorneys did not immediately return telephone calls on Thursday from The Associated Press.

State charges against the couple have been dismissed because federal prosecutors now have jurisdiction, Purdon said. Tran and Nguyen had been slated for trial this month in state court on the human trafficking charges.

Tran and Nguyen were accused in state court of running The Mann’s Club, a massage parlor in Minot that prostituted women who couldn’t speak English and lived on the upper floor of the business.

The most recent case against the couple was the first in a joint operation between federal and state law enforcement officers in an effort to crack down on increasing reports of prostitution in North Dakota, Purdon said.

“We are going to use every tool in our toolbox to address any allegations of human trafficking in the oil patch,” Purdon said.

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