TRENTON >> A Lower Makefield restaurant owner was indicted last week on eight criminal charges after authorities busted up his alleged human trafficking ring, authorities said.
Chin Pang Liu, 48, of Mink Court, in Lawrence, N.J., faces up to 20 years without parole to life if convicted of first-degree human trafficking and a maximum $200,000 fine.
A grand jury also handed up an indictment Nov. 12 against Liu on three counts of filing a fraudulent return, two counts of financial facilitation of criminal activity, and a single count of false contract payment claims, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said.
The "legitimate" restaurant owner's defense attorney called the case "utter bullsh*t" and promised to fight it tooth and nail.
Houses, cars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in Liu's bank accounts were seized and frozen pending the outcome of the case, according court records,
"We have been working back and forth with them for more than a year they haven't shown anything to substantiate these charges," Newark-based lawyer Robert DeGroot told the Trentonian in a phone interview Thursday. "We will be fighting these charges on the beaches, the shores and the air because this is the worst indictment I've seen in 50 years of practice.
"It's utter bullsh*t, and it's done by an office that shouldn't be handling this kind of a case. He had massage parlors, but they weren't closed operations. They were the kinds that are in kiosks [at the] mall. It's utter fiction."
Liu was arrested in November 2018 following a two-year investigation. Yonglian Liu and Dong Teng were also ensnared in the investigation, each charged with promoting prostitution and maintaining a residence as a place of prostitution.
They were issued summonses and released. A MCPO spokeswoman said Teng and Yonglian Liu were accepted into pretrial intervention after agreeing to cooperate against the restaurant owner.
"He wouldn't know those people from a bag of apples," DeGroot said of the state-sanctioned snitches.
Cops raided a restaurant, a spa, five homes in Lawrence and another restaurant in Lower Makefield as part of the investigation that began when authorities were tipped off in September 2016 about a numerous people living at a Lakedale Drive home in Lawrence, NJ.
Detectives conducted surveillance on the home belonging to Liu and saw men and women transported from the home to restaurants in Lawrence and Lower Makefield, according to authorities.
Liu, who was released with conditions to await trial, owned Fusion House, since shuttered, on Brunswick Pike in Lawrence and still operates Golden China Restaurant in Lower Makefield.
Business records show he also co-owns Infinity Nails & Spa in the Quakerbridge Mall, which was registered with the state in 2013.
Two years later, Liu added Kin Hung Lee, of Plainsboro, and Hansen Weng, of Trenton as co-owners. Liu and Lee were listed as 45 percent shareholders and Weng a 10-percent shareholder, records show.
Last year, they filed records with the state Treasurer's office of their intentions to dissolve the nail salon as of Aug. 31 2018.
"The corporation attests, under the penalty of perjury, that as of the adoption date set forth in Article 7 below, it has ceased doing business, and acknowledges that any distributions of cash or property will be subject to taxation at the corporate level and/or individually to the shareholder.," the pending dissolution documents states.
The Treasurer's office certified Nov. 9, 2018 the pending dissolution certificate had been filed.
Someone who answered the phone at Infinity Nails & Spa on Thursday afternoon identified the owner as "Peter," the same name DeGroot used for his client.
The nail salon was still open and accepting appointments and walk-ins despite state records appearing suggest otherwise.
A spokesperson for the Treasurer's office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the nail salon's status.
A man who identified himself as Liu answered the phone at Golden China Restaurant on Thursday afternoon.
“You’re looking for advertising right," he asked a Trentonian reporter calling about the indictment. "Yeah, I don’t think we’d do any advertising."
Liu seemed to understand The Trentonian's questions until he was asked about the indictment.
“I don’t understand what you’re asking,” he said. “Can you call my attorney?”
Authorities seized $50,000 in cash from Liu's Mink Court home, which he and his wife purchased for $470,000 in July 2013, according to court records.
Tax records showed he reported $100,000 in income in 2016, but financial records seized in the raid showed he failed to report "a significant portion of his income," prosecutors said.
"He's got a cash business, and he gets the money and consolidates it and does banking once a week," DeGroot explained. "He filed his returns."
Liu's workers were allegedly paid below state minimum wage and under the table to avoid taxes, prosecutors said. Full-time employees didn't receive benefits, and workers were driven in Liu's vehicles, prosecutors said.
Employee at the Teng-owned Anna Nails and Massage on Brunswick Pike "solicited to masturbate undercover officers in exchange for money," according to court records.
Yonglian Liu was one of Chin Pang Liu’s employees who cops saw transferring cash from the spa to the Golden China Restaurant.
DeGroot called the criminal case nothing more than a "shake down."
According to court records filed Liu's civil forfeiture case, authorities froze nearly four dozen bank accounts, at various financial institutions, containing more than $740,778.
Authorities also seized a 2017 Mercedes Benz GLE 350, a 2013 Toyota RAV4, Liu's three Lawrence homes and two brown leather recliners.
Liu and his wife bought the 175 Fountayne Lane home, which is listed as an affordable housing unit in court records, for $61K in April 2002.
Liu attempted to sell the unit a few months after being charged, according to township officials, but couldn't because it's part of the ongoing civil forfeiture proceeding.
Liu also has another home on Lakedale Drive which he bought for $248,000 in January 2010.
Also seized were jewelry and bags of gold and silver commemorative coins were stored in a safe deposit box at a Wells Fargo in Lawrence.
Liu had 20 Wells Fargo accounts with more than $229,000 deposited at the branch, according to court records.
He had another seven Bank of America accounts with more than $83,000, three PNC accounts containing more than $134,500, a JP Chase Morgan account with $500, a Santander account with $9,500, and TD Ameritrade accounts with more than $283K, court records show.
Liu had five life insurance policies with New York Life Insurance Company worth $59,159, according to the court filings.
Assistant prosecutor Amanda Nini wants Liu's assets permanently seized claiming they're the "proceeds of criminal activity" or purchased with illicit funds.
In April, Superior Court Judge Kay Walcott-Henderson granted a stay of the forfeiture case until the criminal matter is over, court records show.