SEATTLE (KOMO/CNN/Gray News) – Police have arrested six people and shut down 11 massage parlors in or near Seattle’s Chinatown-International District after a four-year investigation into human sex trafficking.
Authorities said the massage parlors were part of a sex trade network that’s operated in and around the district for years.
"This investigation was about dismantling a criminal organization," said Seattle Deputy Chief of Police Marc Garth-Green.
From January 2015 until the six arrests were made during the last few weeks, detectives investigated various spas and massage parlors around Seattle.
Police say more than 26 sex workers have been rescued since the investigation began. Many of the women, who range in age from 20 to 65, were brought to the U.S. from mainland China. They lived, worked and performed sex acts inside the businesses.
"They were living on those sites,” said Seattle Police Capt. Mike Edwards, who headed the investigation. “They were working 14, 20-hour days, seven days a week, no real time off."
Officials said the women lived in squalor and earned minimal wages.
According to police, the people arrested made well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars from the businesses.
Xinzhong Wang, 67; Liuzhen Mou, 63; Ran Feng, 25; Wei Zang, 49; Xiaohua Jiang, 31; and Lina Wang, 41, have been charged with promoting prostitution and money laundering.
Tony Chinn, who grew up in the Chinatown-International District, couldn’t believe the parlors were operating in the neighborhood.
"It's an embarrassment. I'm embarrassed by it," Chinn said.
Police say they’re not finished with the case. They believe the businesses are connected to a larger criminal network with ties to California, New York and other states.
"Throughout, law enforcement were all fully aware that this problem has been around for a while,” Edwards said. “It is very well organized, very well connected. We’re working with the federal agencies primarily on that side of it."
For the neighbor of one massage parlor, who asked not to be shown on camera, she can’t stop thinking about the sex workers and what they endured.
"I feel so sorry for, you know, those people who have to work on that field," she said.
Police say many of the sex workers were lured to the U.S. with the promise of big money and a better life.
After the arrests, police say many of the women vanished. The ones who stayed around are working with advocacy programs.