OVERLEA, Md. (WJZ) — An illegal prostitution ring was going on right under the noses of Baltimore County neighbors, according to police.
Andrea Fujii explains how the women were moved from state to state for sex.
Prosecutors say these women traveled thousands of miles, got into the country illegally and ended up as sex slaves.
When federal agents raided an unassuming Overlea house, they say they found women forced to sell their bodies as workers in an international sex ring.
“It was always open at night. We were like, `Oh, that’s weird.’ It’s a happy endings [kind] of place,” said neighbor Lindsey Miller.
It was called the Elite Spa on Bel Air Road. A lengthy indictment paints a gruesome picture of what went on inside. Prosecutors say the victims were lured into the U.S. from China, Korea and other Asian countries, some of them illegally. Then they’d be shuffled from motel rooms to brothels in four states.
“They charge them large fees to be smuggled into the country, then they basically hold them as indentured slaves,” said Mark Bastan, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Neighbors say the girls would be dropped off in the very back of the house. Then they’d rush inside, looking over their shoulder, almost like they were scared someone would see them.
“You can put two and two together and assume what’s going on with a lot of cars coming and going,” said Mike, who works next door.
Court documents show customers paid managers $50 to $60 an hour, but the women’s only income came from tips. Some serviced up to 14 people in one night. They were forced to move every two weeks to offer men variety.
It’s a horror story not too shocking to ICE agents, who say tens of thousands are trafficked in for sex every year.
“These number of cases are not uncommon. We’ve had cases here in Maryland,” Bastan said.
Federal agents say in taped phone conversations, suspects bragged that their operation brought in more than a million dollars a year.