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Post date: February 28 2004

Dutchess County Grand Jury Indicts Tour Operators

New York State Attorney General Spitzer announced the indictment by a Dutchess County Grand Jury of the operators of a travel agency on charges alleging that they used their tour business to solicit customers for prostitution rings operating from South East Asia.

The defendants, Douglas Allen, 59, and Norman Barabash, 58, each are charged on February 27, 2004 with Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree, a class "D" felony, and Promoting Prostitution in the Fourth Degree, a class "A" misdemeanor. If convicted on the charges, the defendants face up to seven years in state prison.

The defendants pleaded not guilty in Dutchess County Court before Judge Gerald Hayes.

"These defendants claimed to be operating a traditional travel agency. It is far from that," said Spitzer. "It is alleged that their action led to the systematic exploitation and suppression of young women, and that is simply unacceptable."

Spitzer office was originally alerted to the activities of the travel agency, Big Apple Oriental Tours, by Equality Now, an international human rights organization that works to promote and protect the rights of women and girls.

The indictment arises out of an undercover investigation by the Statewide Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) into the activities of the travel agency, a business owned and run by the defendants from their private residences in Poughkeepsie and Queens. It alleges that among the businesses purposes was procuring customers for prostitutes in the Philippines and Thailand. Upon arriving at their destination, agency contracted tour guides led customers to night clubs and negotiated fees and sexual acts with prostitutes and bar managers, who are locally known as "mama-sans." Trips typically cost approximately $2,500 and range in length for 7 to 10 days.

The indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.