A woman in Hawaii faces up to five years in prison after authorities caught her sending more than a half-million dollars she had earned as a prostitute to her husband in New Jersey.
In a deal with prosecutors, 38-year-old Khemwika Ernst pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday to conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Prosecutors said more than $525,000 can be traced to her work as a prostitute from 2008 to 2014.
Ernst and her 43-year-old husband, Michael Ernst, were indicted on the charges in March. According to a death certificate filed with court records, Michael Ernst, a Navy veteran, committed suicide 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 too moved to New Jersey.
Khemwika Ernst, also known as Khemwika Duangnujai, Gigi, Sky, Cindy and Apple, 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.
After the credit union questioned the large deposits, Ernst began shipping cash to New Jersey via FedEx. Authorities intercepted one of the packages, which contained $7,400 cash.
According to NJ.com, the couple used most of the money to purchase a $390,000 house on three acres in Fredon, New Jersey.
Michael Ernst was a petty officer first class in the U.S. Navy and had a career that spanned 20 years, including Operation Enduring Freedom and the Afghan and Iraq wars, according to an online obituary.
Khemwika Ernst is scheduled to be sentenced in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.