The Seattle Police department arrested six people and rescued 26 women after a three-and-a-half year investigation into massage parlors across the city.
Officers worked alongside the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to serve more than a dozen warrants into an alleged human-trafficking network involving multiple massage parlors and spas in the Seattle area. According to police, these spas were sexually exploiting numerous victims from the U.S. and foreign countries.
One unmarked storefront in Seattle was known by people soliciting sex as "Magic Touch," Seattle Police Captain, Mike Edwards, said. He added that the massage parlor marked the start of the investigation that ensnared 10 additional businesses.
"It was a lot of men that were going in and out of the location," Edwards said.
Six people were arrested on charges of promoting prostitution and money laundering, according to Seattle Police Department’s Vice/High-Risk Victims Section.
"The traffic was extreme in all them," Edwards added. "It was a very large amount of money going through these places on a daily basis."
The 26 women were lured to Seattle from China with the hope of making money to support their families overseas, police said. The women replied to what they thought were legal advertisements, but when they got to the states, that turned out to be false, according to investigators. The alleged victims reportedly were forced to live in terrible conditions and prostituted up to 20 hours a day, with their movements restricted and monitored by those in charge of the criminal operations.
"The victims were lured to the United States with the promise of legal employment and making money to better their lives," Deputy Chief Marc Garthgreen told KIRO.
They were forced to work extreme hours in unhealthy conditions engaging in sexual acts no matter the risk, investigators said.
Police said the 26 women were safe, and local providers were assisting them with food, medical attention, places to stay and transportation as needed.
The sting unfolded nearly two weeks after South Florida police arrested hundreds in connection with a massive human trafficking and prostitution ring there.