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Woman faces time in prison for hiding prostitution wages

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A woman pleaded guilty Monday to sending her husband in New Jersey more than half a million dollars she earned working as a prostitute in Hawaii.

In a deal with prosecutors, Khemwika Ernst pleaded guilty in federal court in Honolulu to conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Prosecutors said more than $525,000 can be traced to her working as a prostitute from 2008 to 2014.

Ernst and her husband were indicted in March. According to a death certificate filed with court records in the case, Michael Ernst shot and killed himself in New Jersey a month later.

The Ernsts were married in 2004 and lived in Hawaii until 2010, when the Navy transferred Michael Ernst to Maryland and then to Virginia, according to court records. His wife and their son remained in Hawaii until 2014, when they moved to New Jersey.

Khemwika Ernst received cash for “a continuous course of unlawful prostitution activity,” according to her plea agreement. She would deposit cash ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 into a joint account shared with her husband at the Navy Federal Credit Union in Hawaii. Her husband would then transfer the money to accounts in New Jersey.

Khemwika Ernst said in court through a Thai-speaking interpreter that she and her husband used some of the money to buy a house in Newton, N.J. No mortgage or financing was used to purchase the home for $390,000, her plea agreement said.

After the credit union questioned the large deposits, Ernst began shipping cash to New Jersey via FedEx, she said. Authorities intercepted one of the packages, which contained $7,400 in cash.

The couple filed tax returns without reporting the income she earned as a prostitute, she said.

Khemwika Ernst faces up to five years in prison for each of the two charges when she’s sentenced in January.

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