At least five Telugu actresses were allegedly lured into prostitution in the U.S., by an undocumented Indian American couple, according to an indictment unsealed in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois last week.
Recently unsealed federal charges accuse a Chicago couple of Indian descent of running a high-end prostitution ring to lure actresses from Tollywood — a nickname for the lively Telugu-language film scene in southern India — to the U.S. and advertise them for sex at Indian conferences and cultural events across the country.
While here on temporary visas, at least five actresses were sometimes forced to stay in a dingy, two-story apartment building in Chicago’s Belmont Cragin neighborhood waiting for their next “date,” the charges alleged. They also met clients in hotels at conferences in Dallas, New Jersey and Washington.
The prostitution scheme was allegedly masterminded by Kishan Modugumudi, 34, an Indian businessman who rose to become a player in the Tollywood movie industry and co-produced several hit films.
Here are the incriminating details that came to the fore which helped blow the lid on the scam.
The accused, Kishan Modugumudi and Chandrakala Modugumudi, both natives of Hyderabad but illegally living in the US, took Tollywood actresses and models to USA in the name of various conferences and ‘star nights’ but conducted a prostitution racket instead
Tollywood actresses, models and anchors were taken on B1 and B2 visitor visas to USA. The accused collected $1,000 to $3,000 for ‘one-time’ sex with the actresses. At least 76 airline tickets were purchased from November 8, 2016 to November 29, 2017. Most bookings were made at Comfort Suites in Schiller Park, Illinois in the name of Kishan and Vebha
Kishan Modugumudi – also known as Sreeraj Chennuppati – and his wife, Chandrakala Purnima Modugumudi, were arrested on April 30, and charged with several counts of “importation of aliens for prostitution.” The couple is currently in detention with the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Illinois. Their next court appearance is scheduled for July 9.
Federal agents retrieved text messages from Kishan Modugumudi’s cell phones that contained conversations between him and customers. One of the victims reached US to attend Telugu Association of Southern California (TASC) star night event in California on Nov 8, 2017. But she reached two days after the event and travelled to Chicago, raising suspicions of the Homeland Security Investigations. On probe, the victim said she came to attend another conference of North America Telugu Society (NATS) held in Schaumburg, Illinois, on November 25, 2017.
According to the 42-page indictment, Kishan Modugumudi, who promoted himself as a Tollywood agent, and his wife bought airline tickets for the five victims – at various times – on the premise that they would be performing at Telugu and other Indian American conferences. The Modugumudis allegedly housed the young women at their Chicago home and area hotels, and held their passports, rendering the victims virtual captives.
The women were then ordered to perform sex on men who arranged the transactions by text message with the Modugumudis, according to the indictment. Several chats were displayed as evidence in the indictment, which portrayed customers haggling over prices and choice of woman.
Customers paid anywhere from $800 to $3,000 to have sex with the would-be actresses, the indictment alleged, adding that Modugumudi would text customers photos of the women, and customers would specify whom they wanted. In one such exchange documented in the indictment, a customer asked the pimp for the woman he had sex with “last time” for $800 but Modugumudi said he could only send the woman for $2,500.
“I’m not rich. I can’t effort (sic) thousands of dollars,” replied the john, but Modugumudi haggled him down to $2,000, according to the indictment document.
After the encounter, the actress would allegedly text Chandrakala, also known as Vibha or Vebha, to let her know the type of encounter. In one such text documented in the indictment, a woman reported that she had given her customer “a blow job on le.” “But he was very happy,” she texted, and Vibha sent her a “thumbs up” emoticon, according to the document.
The actresses were not named, but simply referred to as Victims A, B, C, D, and E. In the first case, Victim A arrived in Chicago on a tourist visa Nov. 20, and said she was being honored by the Telugu Association of Southern California on Nov. 18, according to the indictment. Her visa indicated she was an actress.
But immigration agents became suspicious when she landed in Chicago, rather than Southern California, two days after the purported event. Victim A then allegedly she was coming for a different conference hosted by the North American Telugu Society on Nov. 25, 2017. Both NATS and TASC told federal agents no such conferences were planned on those dates.
Another young Indian actress arrived at O’Hare International Airport last Christmas Eve on a flight from Abu Dhabi. Carrying a temporary visa, she told customs agents she had come to the U.S. to attend an Indian association event at the behest of her manager and would be staying only a couple weeks.
Around that time, a news story on the Web site indiaglitz alleged that the Modugumudis – who are well-known in Southern India – were running a prostitution racket in the U.S. Victim A was questioned by federal authorities again on Dec. 25, 2017, when she said she was headed to Irving, Texas, to perform at a New Year’s Eve celebration. According to the indictment, she admitted that during her previous time in the U.S., Kishan Modugumudi, who is also known as Raju, had arranged for her to be engaged in prostitution. Victim A told agents that she did not actually engage in prostitution but “met with customers for 30 minutes and had a conversation.”
But text messages indicated she told Vibha which customers were “good tippers.” Vibha reminded her that she should bathe between encounters, according to the indictment document. In one text message, Victim A told Vibha that she “did it.” She later told federal agents that Kishan had threatened her, saying he would harm her and her family if she did not continue, or if she told anyone. She allegedly was not allowed to leave the couple’s home.
Victims B, C, D, and E all related similar stories of being lured by false promises of performing at a show. Vibha kept track of each encounter and allegedly paid out $1,000 for each purported show. According to the indictment, one customer later explained to federal agents that Vibha was known in the Telugu community as “one of the women to go to or contact regarding having sex with actresses.”