As news emerged of the arrest of an Indian-origin couple in Chicago for allegedly running a “high-end prostitution ring” in the US by luring at least five actresses from the Telugu film industry, many in the fraternity in Hyderabad claimed that they got the first hint that an organised sex racket may be going on in US, and involves a few actresses, about four months ago. That, industry insiders said, was when one actress had returned from a trip to the US and sought to exchange US dollars worth Rs 14 lakh.
Names of two actresses were reportedly doing the rounds in the industry — they had acted in four Telugu films and two each in Kannada about three years ago, but fell on hard times after that and were not getting roles in recent years.
“When someone who has had no luck in the industry for a year or two suddenly returns from the US and wants to convert a large amount of dollars, people start wondering about the source of the money. I remember the Rs 14 lakh incident. Where did the money come from? Was she into real estate business in the US? Did she get roles in films there?…. No. This involves a few actresses who have fallen on hard times as they are not getting work,” Shivaji Raja, senior actor-comedian and president of Movie Artists Association (MAA), the apex body of Telugu film artists, said, days after Chicago Tribune newspaper reported the arrest of Kishan Modugumudi, 34, alleged mastermind of the prostitution scheme in the US, and wife Chandra, 31.
The couple have been in US federal custody since their arrest in late April, Chicago Tribune reported, quoting “recently unsealed federal charges”.
The ring charged clients up to $3,000 for each sexual encounter, according to a 42-page criminal complaint filed in a Chicago court, it reported. “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 report stated.
“They did a few movies and got used to the luxury of life and probably got caught in this racket,’’ Raja told The Indian Express. He said US authorities have not yet approached them for any information since the couple’s arrest.
Sources in Telugu film industry said Modugumudi and wife Chandrakala worked in Hyderabad until about four years ago. Modugumudi had worked briefly as an assistant to top producer K S Rama Rao but the couple suddenly disappeared from the Hyderabad film scene, an industry insider said.
“We suspect they created a network here and identified actresses who had fallen on hard times before leaving for the US,” a Hyderabad police official said. “They then started approaching these women in the guise of cultural programmes and lured them into the sex racket. Some actresses have said that they received calls from Kishan, inviting them to attend programmes in Chicago, but they declined since they were not sure about his credentials.”