Jeffrey Jason Cooper lured Asian college students to Florida for the summer with the opportunity of doing clerical work for his Miami Beach yoga studio. When they arrived, the students were informed that no such yoga studio existed. Instead, Cooper ran an erotic massage parlor and forced the students into performing sex acts for money instead.
Those are the claims made in an indictment handed down this morning from the Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office. Cooper faces 11 charges related to the sex-trafficking scheme.
Cooper, a Miami Beach resident, originally tried to make his scheme appear on the level. He recruited the students under the guidelines of the Department of State's Summer Work Travel program in 2011. It's a temporary visa program that encourages foreign students to experience "the people, culture, and way of life in the United States."
Under the alias "Dr. Janardana Dasa," Cooper claimed he owned and operated a studio known as Janardana's Yoga and Wellness S.A. He even went through the trouble of setting up a LinkedIn account to claim he owned such a studio.
Through an authorized international educational exchange organization based in Chicago, Cooper made written job offers to students from Kazakhstan claiming they would be able to do clerical work in the studio. In exchange, they would live in apartments above the studio.
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Never mind the fact that "yoga studio clerical worker" doesn't sound like a job that exists; the yoga studio itself never existed.
Two female students ended up agreeing to the deal, but when the students arrived in the summer of 2011, they were told they would be "expected to perform erotic massages and sex acts in exchange for money." Cooper had existing workers explain to the students what they were expected to do. The women were forced to work in the parlor from June through August of 2011.
Cooper now faces charges of sex trafficking and attempted sex trafficking by fraud, wire fraud, importation of aliens for prostitution or immoral purposes, and use of a facility of interstate commerce to operate a prostitution enterprise. He also faces charges for trying to recruit three other students.
If convicted on the sex-trafficking charges, Cooper faces at least a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, but he could get much more.