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East Hartford Police Officer Courtney Desilet is a certified instructor of human trafficking investigations. Mary had been living at the East Hartford spa for more than a year when police arrived in September But when police interviewed the year-old Mary, they heard another story. Joan made Mary and other female employees perform sex acts on the stream of men who visited the East Hartford massage parlor, police records state.
Mary was kept at the spa through a debt and violence, she told police according to records. Joan beat her, she told the officers, punching the air to make her point. Around the state, many women are living in similar conditions at massage parlors selling illicit sex services, interviews with police and advocates indicate.
The businesses are pervasive. They are often located on main streets and operate in daylight. On the internet, it is easy to find graphic reviews from people who claim to have bought sex services at these businesses. Around the country, police often use these review boards, including a website called Rub Maps, as one source of information when investigating possible prostitution and human trafficking crimes. As of Jan. Police records and interviews indicate that human trafficking is suspected at some illicit massage businesses.
The U. Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as using force, fraud or coercion to obtain some kind of labor or sex act from a person.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline identifies sex trafficking as the most prevalent kind of human trafficking in Connecticut and illicit massage parlors among the top venues for this crime. CT Insider made multiple attempts to get comment from the massage businesses referred to in this story. All declined or did not respond. InBack. But in their place, numerous sex review boards proliferate. John Bucherati, detective lieutenant of the Fairfield Police Investigation Division, said these websites have increased demand for and access to prostitution in Connecticut.
Now they just do a computer search. This accessibility can also be a boon for cops. Stamford Police have used one review board website called Rub Maps as an investigative tool as far back aspolice records show. Greenwich police used screenshots of Rub Maps reviews to apply for a search warrant for a massage parlor in Rub Maps operators did not return s requesting comment.
Rub Maps reviews were one piece of evidence that police in Jupiter, Florida used when they busted Orchids of Asia Day Spa, following a sprawling 8-month investigation across Florida and New York. The investigation revealed an alleged multi-million dollar prostitution operation and netted the arrest, among others, of Robert K. Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. While the reviewers are admitting to crimes, they are generally anonymous. Police use numerous tactics and recruit the help of local and state labor, health and zoning officials to investigate prostitution at erotic massage parlors throughout Connecticut.
Sometimes those investigations produce arrests, but rarely do they shut down a business for good. Department of Justice. After drug trafficking, human trafficking is tied for the second most profitable criminal business, along with weapons smuggling. We have major shipping routes. So there is a lot of activity here. Sincethe National Human Trafficking Hotline has fielded 1, calls about trafficking from Connecticut and recorded cases.
In93 calls were reported to the Connecticut hotline for anti-trafficking services and enforcement30 from survivors Women for sex in Connecticut. In addition to sex work, trafficking in Connecticut has been identified in domestic work and housekeeping, and the health, beauty, transportation and agriculture industries. Of those that are Women for sex in Connecticut, roughly one quarter had addresses in Flushing — part of the New York City borough of Queens — connected to their establishment. Flushing is believed to be an epicenter for human trafficking networks crisscrossing the country.
It is unclear if human trafficking has not been proven at the businesses registered in Connecticut with Flushing addresses. Women arrive in Flushing singly or with family, from countries like China and South Korea, looking to escape lives of debt, poverty or domestic violence, said Yvonne Chen, supervising program manager of Anti-trafficking Initiative Outreach at the New York City-based Sanctuary for Families.
Sanctuary for Families helps about survivors of human trafficking a year, including some who worked in Connecticut. The scams and deception often start when these women touch down at the airport. Sometimes they are charged a few hundred dollars to travel nine miles from JFK to Flushing, Chen said. They typically move into family-style hotels where they are told about massage work, Chen said.
They may hear about massage work through WeChat, acquaintances or online. Often the women are driven by a boss to the massage parlor and may not know where they are. When they arrive, they may be unaware they are expected to deliver sex services until a client asks, Chen said. At that point, the owner may use physical or psychological coercion to persuade the employee to engage, multiple advocates said.
Language barriers, entrapment, debt, fear, shame and confusion all may prevent these women from seeking help. Police never confirmed trafficking was occurring at the East Hartford spa where Mary worked in But the experience of Mary shows how an employer can use a debt to control his or her workers.
Escaping a human trafficking situation is difficult and often requires outside intervention or multiple attempts, said Kinsman. Women emerge from sex trafficking poor, fearful and desperate. Without supports, they may be easily swept up again. Moreover, sex trafficking of women creates problems across the industry, Chen added.
Traffickers put not only their own workers, but employees of other businesses, at risk for sexual assault and other crimes. People get robbed all the time. When police and city or state inspectors visit a massage parlor, they often look for s that people might be living at the business. Evidence of workers inhabiting a business can al human trafficking is occurring, said Kinsman. Police also observed evidence that people might be living at a business named Sun Star at the same address inpolice records show. In Milford, New Haven, Danbury, East Hartford and Stamford, police also recorded evidence that workers might be living in massage parlors and some specifically noted suspicions of human trafficking.
None of their investigations produced human trafficking charges and the businesses largely continue to operate.
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