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Federal Agents Uncover Multistate Prostitution Network

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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OVERLEA, Md. (WJZ)—On the outside it looked like a normal house, but prosecutors say inside women traded sex for money. We’re learning more about how the alleged brothel was busted.

Mike Hellgren has new insight on the case.

A Porsche, BMW, Rolex watches, cash. The Feds say the men behind this were living the high life. They now face prison time and more than $2 million in fines.

Retiree Lena Harrington never suspected a major prostitution ring was operating just a few feet from her bedroom window in Overlea.

“They’re being exploited,” Harrington said. “It’s very difficult to comprehend how something like that could go on right under your nose.  You don’t even realize it.” 

Federal prosecutors say the house on Bel Air Road masqueraded as a massage parlor, but the real business was sex–that made hundreds of thousands of dollars for the men behind it, who would fly in women from Asia.

Previous WJZ investigations have exposed the prevalence of human trafficking, talking to victims whose passports were taken.

“Because each day when I come home, I was with scary feeling that I might not see my kids,” said one victim.

“Only one spoke English, and I felt bad afterwards that they were probably too afraid to tell me what was going on,” Harrington said.

The Feds say the pimps would get $50-60 a trick. The women wouldn’t get a cent of it. They’d also swap the women out every few weeks. The ring stretched into Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.

“There was a girl who asked me to call a cab for her, and I didn’t see her ever again,” Harrington said.

But she saw plenty of johns.

“I didn’t see a lot of 16-year-olds or anything. They were mostly mature men,” Harrington said. “It sickened me to think this is someone’s grandfather, someone’s father, someone’s husband.” 

And the eventual raid on the property.

“They were banging on the door to open up,” Harrington said. “And there was only one girl there that day. She must’ve been asleep upstairs. ” 

The five men arrested in connection with the brothel face 70 years each in prison.

The Feds say most of the women were undocumented aliens. In the past four years, Baltimore County has busted about six of these illegitimate massage parlors.

Investigators used wire taps and GPS tracking to build their case.

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