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Fitzgerald chatted with a sergeant still on scene, who said only one woman had been inside with a customer when officers had walked in through the unlocked front door. But it was up to the women to decide whether to accept help — for instance, finding a place to stay, getting a ride somewhere or engaging in more intensive case management — or simply to go on their way.
Many employ middle-aged women working to pay off debts incurred in their native countries, the newspaper reported. The fact six suspects were actually charged is a victory. From the beginning, the focus of the investigation was on targeting the people responsible for exploiting and profiting from the Chinese women being brought into the country to staff the parlors, and not on the men who patronize them, Nollette and Umporowicz said.
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The complaint she sent to police set in motion a vast prostitution and money-laundering investigation, tying massage parlors and spas in Seattle to a sophisticated criminal network that brings Chinese women into the U. Twenty-six Chinese women, many of them new arrivals who spoke little or no English, were removed from the parlors, where they lived and worked in squalid, dingy conditions. But in addition to rent, the women are required to repay the costs of bringing them to the U. The men seen frequenting the parlors while they were under surveillance came from all walks of life, including doctors, engineers and tech workers, Umporowicz said.
Inside, someone had created three makeshift massage rooms out of uneven drywall painted a dingy brown. Sara Jean Green : or sgreen seattletimes.
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Many of the women coming into the U. Employment agencies in the L. During the investigation, detectives used GPS trackers, surveillance cameras and mobile surveillance teams that followed spa operators as they picked up and dropped off women at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and shuttled them between different massage parlors, the charges say.
Two of the suspects posted bail and were required to turn over their passports, according to prosecutors.
It was hoped the women being brought in would feel more comfortable disclosing sexual or sensitive details of their experiences to other women, Truscott said. The Beacon Hill storefront at 15 th Ave. When detectives started watching the business, they spotted an Asian man driving a van between it and a second massage parlor, the now-closed Touch of Class Spa, at Fourth Ave.
From there, detectives used electricity bills, credit-card and bank records, phone and property records and a variety of surveillance techniques to identify Xinzhong, uncover the other targets and build cases against them, the charges show. Share story.
A small neon. A fourth woman, believed to have returned to China inwas also charged but remains at large. King County prosecutors have since charged two men and three women with money laundering and three to six counts each of second-degree promoting prostitution. If you would like to share your thoughts or experiences in relation to this story, please the reporter or submit a letter to be considered for publication in our Opinion section.
The FBI flew in nearly 30 female linguists from out of state to eliminate the possibility the women being interviewed would recognize or later bump into their interpreter.
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Vicky Li, a community liaison between Seattle police and the Chinatown-International District, said some people are unhappy about how the concentration of illicit businesses has affected perceptions of the neighborhood. For more than four years, police received a steady stream of complaints about massage parlors offering more than body rubs — with most of the complaints coming from business owners and residents in the Chinatown-International District, Beacon Hill and Sodo — according to Umporowicz. The women, in their late 20s to early 60s, worked six or seven days a week, often for 14 or more hours a day, according to police and charging papers.
He did, however, send in detectives to pose as customers — and women agreed to perform sex acts at all the targeted spas and parlors. We put property owners on notice that criminal activity was happening in their rental buildings and we rescued 26 women.
The four cities also have problems with illlicit massage parlors, he said. During the investigation into Xinzhong, Umporowicz learned he had ly lived in Monterey Park, Calif. As teams were fanning out to arrest the five suspects in Seattle, Lynnwood and Kent on Feb.
When the briefing was over, Lt. Jim Fitzgerald, the operation commander, headed to a church in West Seattle. The Seattle Times closes comments on particularly sensitive stories. Like the women recovered from the parlors, all of the suspects are Chinese or Chinese-American, Umporowicz said. In Januarya woman whose daughter lived in the apartment building noticed a male-only clientele visiting the storefront, mostly at night.
There were no police cars parked outside, and all police officers wore plain clothes instead of uniforms. By Sara Jean Green.
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At least one woman disclosed being sexually assaulted by customers and another said she had been robbed; others reported being slapped and verbally abused, the charges say. There are a lot of people like me, people my age and my race. Satisfied with the preparations at the church, Fitzgerald headed to the Chinatown-International District, where he stopped at a massage parlor at 12 th Avenue South and South Main Street.
She had set up interview rooms and organized the 10 female detectives — on loan from the homicide and sexual-assault units, force investigations, missing persons and the anti-crime team — who were to be paired with interpreters to conduct victim interviews. This closed massage parlor at 15th Ave. But investigating the owners and operators of the Chinese-run massage parlors required different tactics, due to language and cultural barriers.
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After a couple more stops, Fitzgerald headed south to Beacon Hill and parked down the street from the massage parlor on 15 th Avenue South that started the whole investigation. In another room, there were a couple of ratty recliners in place of beds.
He arrived expecting chaos.
In each instance, the charges say, the detective used a ruse and walked out before any sex acts were performed. He and his detectives also uncovered links to Flushing, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens that is also home to a large Chinese population.
Five owners and operators were arrested and the massage parlors were shuttered last week in the raids in Seattle's Chinatown-International District and Beacon Hill neighborhoods. Based on their recommendations, she made sure the church was stocked with food the women would find familiar and set up a waiting-room TV to stream popular Chinese television shows.
Instead, he found Sgt. Lauren Truscott had things well in hand.