- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Federal agents yesterday said they raided five brothels and arrested four persons in Northwest as part of a multistate human-trafficking and prostitution operation involving women recruited from South Korea with the promise of making money to support their families back home.

The arrests took place during raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and FBI agents at locations in Baltimore, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, North Carolina and California.

In the District, federal agents targeted five brothels that were masquerading as massage parlors or spas.

The establishments were 14K Spot, which operated in a basement in the 1400 block of K Street Northwest; Downtown Spa, in the 1000 block of Vermont Avenue Northwest; OK Spa, in the 2400 block of Wisconsin Avenue Northwest; Cleveland Park Holistic Health, on the second floor of a building in the 3500 block of Connecticut Avenue Northwest; and Royal Spa, in the 500 block of 10th Street Northwest.

Authorities said that four persons were arrested at those locations and that 23 women were taken into custody.

Agents also raided a Baltimore spa called Moonlight, arrested three persons and took two women into custody.

Nationwide, agents made 31 arrests and took more than 70 women into custody. Officials said the women who were taken into custody were being interviewed and declined to comment on what would happen to them.

“To those individuals who are found to be victims of trafficking, federal law provides a range of benefits and services,” ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said.

Telephone calls intercepted by investigators revealed that the women were routinely traded and exchanged among the various brothel owners and managers, sometimes as often as several times a month, until they worked off debts they were charged for passage to America.

Several of the people charged were identified in court documents by nicknames such as “Texas Imo,” “Patty Kim,” “Niko” and “Big Sister Lillie.”

Authorities said that when a new worker was needed, an owner or manager simply placed a call to a middleman or transporter who located a woman who fit the manager’s need and arranged for the transportation of the woman to the brothel.

In addition, the middlemen assisted the brothel owners in sending prostitution proceeds and other funds overseas through unlicensed Korean money transmitters.

“This case is a reminder that large-scale human trafficking occurs every day, right in our own cities and neighborhoods. The United States government is dedicated to putting an end to this type of trafficking, and to punishing those who seek to profit from the sexual exploitation of others,” said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia in New York.

Mr. Garcia said the arrested people were charged with conspiracy to engage in human trafficking, conspiracy to engage in interstate transportation of women for the purpose of prostitution, interstate transportation of women for the purpose of prostitution, conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and the transportation of illegal aliens, and conspiracy to operate an unlicensed money-transmitting business.

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