Joseph Yannai, Chef Book Writer, Hit With Fed Sex-Trafficking Charges

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Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch just announced a pretty nasty sex-trafficking case against a 66-year-old Westchester County man who allegedly went Web-trolling for women innocently seeking work as au-pairs.

Joseph Yannai, a writer who wrote a book about famous chefs (The International Who's Who of Chefs 2004-2005), is charged with forced labor, violation of immigration laws, and other crimes.

In emails to victims, Yannai who lives in tony Pound Ridge, frequently pretended to be a female named "Joanna" in a bid to convince women as young as 18 to fly to the U.S. on tourist visas and claim they were visiting for a short time.

Once they got to JFK airport, however, the indictment alleges, they wound up in the bearded writer's clutches: "Shortly after the women arrived, Yannai attempted to kiss, grope and fondle them. Yannai also pressured women to be present in the bathroom while Yannai bathed, and to lie in bed with Yannai while he took a nap."

He also imposed prison-like house rules on the victims, "limiting their contacts with the outside world, monitoring their phone calls and forbidding them from wearing bras while they were working."

The senior citizen-lecher is alleged to have sexually assaulted some victims and used threats of violence to keep them in fear. The indictment doesn't spell out how many women were conned this way, but the federal rap is a follow-up to state charges of labor trafficking and sexual abuse that were first brought last year by the Westchester County District Attorney's office which cited three women from Hungary, France, and Brazil. The Journal-News reports that Yannai has denied those charges.

(N.B. This item includes both sex and ill treatment to immigrants, two vitally important VVM issues. Can we make it onto the Top Blog Stories ribbon? We keep trying.)

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