As my loyal readers know, I’ve been talking a lot about the human trafficking that’s been taking place lately in the USA. A lot of it is confined to my home state of Florida, which doesn’t make me a very proud resident, but I’ve always known that this is a sunny place for shady people. It is what it is. Just recently, the USA Today ran a story about sex trafficking, and they discussed how the police simply can’t stop it. I found it a very interesting read and felt compelled to come share it here today as well as put my usual two cents on the story.
Warning: this is one of the longest, most in depth reports and reactions you’ll ever read about the gross act of sex trafficking. Reader discretion is highly advised.
Sex Trafficking and Why It Is So Hard to Stop
Back in 2017, in my former home town of Miami Beach, Florida, Chief Daniel Oates was in front of television cameras giving praise to his agency’s eight month quest to make a prostitution and human trafficking bust.
In this bust, 10 women, all Asian, were detained while interpreters tried to figure out who the victims were and who the perpetrators were. In this bust, four brothels were shut down that were operating under the guise of being legit spas. Long time blog followers may remember that I blogged about that bust right here – Miami Beach Jee Jee Spa is busted.
However, what I failed to do back then was track the case. Of course, I have a job, a life, and of course, this website, so tracking court cases isn’t really the best use of my time. However, thanks to the USA Today report, I have very disturbing updates on that case:
*Before the news conference began, some of the sex workers VANISHED.
*One of the spa’s entirely avoided being shut down.
*Only one person was charged with trafficking, and later ended up pleading to the much lesser charge of profiting from prostitution.
If you follow the media, you know that recently the police across the USA have been cracking down on sex spa’s in an attempt to deter human trafficking. The all-time high as far as awareness for this program was in February when charges were put out against the New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who allegedly was caught on tape paying for acts of sexual pleasures.
According to USA Today, an official review of three of the high profile raids in Florida identified that the goal of getting tough on human traffickers basically fell apart after their big media celebration. In all of these three cases, (the above Miami Beach raid, a Hollywood raid, and a Southwest Florida raid) the charges were pled down or dropped all together. As you can see in my Fort Lauderdale Sex Spa Update, the industry is still thriving, making it clear that new spa’s are opening up across town or sometimes, right in the same location. Going after the overlords and bosses who profit from this industry and engage in bringing women to the USA for sex work, clearly didn’t go anywhere.
According to RubMaps, there are 9,000 illicit massage parlors in the USA that are known. This is about a $2.5 billion industry on a yearly basis.
USA Today went a step further and identified through Florida public records (corporate filings to massage licenses) that more than 33% of the 41 spa’s that were raided in the three above raids had been linked to a much more substantial network of massage parlors across Florida.
We often don’t hear of the success stories such as putting people behind bars, or reuniting the victims with their families, and that’s often because these types of things simply don’t happen the way law enforcement envisioned. In Operation Spa, LLC, which was a two year operation in Southwest Florida, they convicted six operators for money laundering and / or racketeering, which was giving them a probability of prison time up to three years. Does that really fit the crime? Not in my opinion.
Still, in that bust, only eight women ended up pleading guilty to prostitution-related crimes. That’s not a lot for a two year dedicated sting.
Prostitution is often charged to the women working these massage parlors. In the case of 57 arrested in the raids mentioned above, 54 were women. They hailed from China, Haiti, Cuba, Guatemala, and other countries. Forty-two of them were looking at charges of prostitution.
This also begs the question – if they were forced into prostitution by a human trafficker, is that a forgivable crime?
During these raids, mugshots were released, putting off an aggressive, in-your-face stance on this business and showing people that this type of activity would not be tolerated. The posters were littered with women and just one man.
Recent blog updates I’ve done have highlighted a huge amount of prostitution busts across Florida, including this one in Polk County with 154 arrests, another one with 85 arrests on the Gulf Coast, a Fort Myers prostitution bust, and even a victim of sex trafficking getting freed in Miami Beach.
Difficulties in Prosecuting Human Trafficking
The report continues to discuss the difficulty in prosecuting the parties involved in these heinous crimes. The people who were caught up in being forced to give sexual favors to others were seen as victims, and not criminals. The penalty for human trafficking is very harsh – up to 20 years. Victims who cooperate can have their criminal record wiped out, giving them a huge incentive to expose the traffickers.
There are now departments in law enforcement that bring on experts to help them show signs of when someone may be a victim of human trafficking. One being, that the women may have a license for massage in multiple states. This allows them to be moved around rather easily. They also note that Flushing, New York, is a port for traffickers who bring in women from overseas, and that the neighborhood of Queens will most likely appear on their documents. Anyone without ID is also suspect, as their traffickers often keep their ID with them so they can protect their investment and not allow them to flee.
Police have smartened up and are now using digital resources like ones I talk about on my site like Rubmaps. Those sites have clear footprints as to where the business and illegal activity is taking place. It’s not hard to follow the footprint as to where the traffickers are setting up shop. In fact, the Miami Beach raids were launched after concerned citizens started sending screen shots from RubMaps, which is the largest directory and review portal featuring illegal massage parlors designed to help men get sexual favors.
Subtle hints of sex slavery are also something that need to be reported. Acts such as men coming and going at random hours, regular movement of workers, suitcases, and even cooking supplies are all tell tale signs that someone is being held as a sex slave.
Some of the most high profile cases have followed tips. One such case was a sting in Minnesota in 2016, where a tip from Arizona talking about how women were shuffling through apartments led to further investigation. Minnesota authorities labeled it one of the biggest sex trafficking rings ever taken down by the federal government. There were literally hundreds of women from Thailand being used in this system while tens of millions of illicitly made dollars made their way back to Thailand. This investigation was led by the U.S. Attorney’s office as well as federal agents with specializations in immigration and financial crimes. It’s taking high priced officials to crack these complex cases.
In that Thai organization, 36 people have either pled guilty or been convicted so far. Five of them that were convicted of sex trafficking conspiracy were convicted after only one day of deliberations by a jury trial.
Very Few Busts Lead to Human Trafficking Convictions
Around 500 people involved in such cases with charges of human trafficking were checked out by USA Today ranging from 2008 to 2017 in Florida. Out of those cases, only 15% of the parties were convicted of trafficking. Many saw their charges reduced, changed, or entirely dropped. Out of the three people charged in the spa stings, none were convicted of trafficking.
Even more disgusting is that undercover operations inside of 24 Broward County spa’s that took place in the Summers of 2016 and 2017 led to zero parties going to prison, not even the two spa officials who admittedly the attempted to bribe police.
The Operation Spa LLC that I spoke about earlier in this post led to a whopping zero charges of trafficking.
Only Mi Cha Jones, (photo above) of the Jee Jee Spa in Miami Beach was charged with trafficking. Women who worked the spa told prosecutors that Jones was aware of the sex acts going on and that she withheld a lot of their pay to compensate for room and board. As the case went on, the State Attorney made an offer to Jones – plead guilty to profiting from prostitution.
She did just that, and got a whopping sentence of PROBATION AND COURT COSTS.
It’s no wonder these people continue to operate so openly. The upside highly outweighs the potential penalty.
There were challenges in that case, like paperwork being done in Mandarin, but the largest obstacle was two victims who simply refused to cooperate with the prosecutors.
Elsewhere in Miami Beach, Jade Spa operated next to a school, leading to this quote by Richard Hull, Miami Beach Police:
You have kids going to a Montessori school at $18,000 a year and you have some poor girl coming here as a slave not able to leave the place of work in the same block. It shouldn’t be happening in this country.
When the raids were over, over half of the 41 establishments were getting reviews on Rubmaps. This was a clear indication that the sexual favor businesses remained open for business. Sure, there is no way to tell when these reports were made and may are anonymous, but you have to assume at least a portion of this fodder is very true.
Some massage parlors are really in your face with their offers, and this also stands out in their customer reviews on sites like Rubmaps.
For example, the Bonita Spa in Hollywood, Florida, has an advertisement for a “Brazilian Moon Shower” which is done in green, yellow, and blue lights. This place has supposedly been raided multiple times, resulting in many arrests and leading to charges resulting in no contest pleads. Of course, the corporate records speak to the tune that they have the same ownership, and as a guest to the Hard Rock Casino across the street, I can say that this place is still open for business and that many of the casino guests take their extra cash there for some fun. I’ve literally heard men talking about this place and the sexual favors they’ve got there while playing blackjack.
After sex workers learn the ropes a bit, it’s almost like a multi level marketing scheme.
Some workers will start out as a victim before being moved up to a house manager. It’s a whacky world of opportunity, I guess.
Also, when a spa is under investigation or worse, closed, they will often change owners, sell the business, and use other loopholes to keep the criminal activity going, something that local law enforcement is having a hard time with. They can’t continue to keep a place closed if there is a new owner, lease, and tenant.
Lastly, USA Today uncovered this info, which leads me to believe that this Asian Massage Parlor operation in Florida, at least, is run by some serious gangsters in China.
Over 60 spa’s in Florida were tracked to 100 LLC’s that used the same registered agents or accounting firms. Over 75% of those businesses had reviews on RubMaps. The names Li and Joseph Leung at Jal Accounting and Yongmei Cai seem to come up very often.
It’s a complex world we live in, and some people are running faster than the law. I’ll continue to keep tabs on this situation and the industry in general in order to keep Sex Dating Apps the best place to get your fix on the mean underbelly makes up sex in the USA.