MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Beach police shut down four massage parlors Friday evening that they said were fronts for prostitution.
Investigators believe many of the women are victims of human trafficking.
During the raids, which were part of an eight-month investigation, police found evidence the women were living in the parlors in terrible conditions.
“These are prostitution operations that are operating as sham massage parlors,” Chief Dan Oates said.
Chief Oates said the investigation started with complaints from area residents.
“They operate in full view and everyone knows what they are about,” said Richard Hull, president of the Normandy Shores HOA.
Holt said some of the parlors have been around for a decade.
He was with authorities as they shut establishments down.
“From a resident, I’m very happy that they are closed down. When I walked in there and saw the behind the scenes of the conditions that these women were living in, I felt very sad, because they are living in horrible conditions,” he said. “There is food there, frozen food. They are living out of suitcases. Their clothes are there. They shower there. I don’t think they leave.”
Eight women, all of them of Asian descent, are being interviewed Friday night.
“They are eight women that we have recovered from these four locations tonight,” Oats said. “And tonight we are evaluating the extent to which they are involved in criminal activity and or themselves victims.”
Three of the parlors operated toward the north end of the beach around Normandy Shores.
One, Jee Jee Spa, was right off the bustling 5th Avenue in South Beach. The others were LuLu on 7441 Collins Avenue, Shanghai on 1106 Normandy Drive and Jade on 1020 71st Street.
Miami Beach’s city manager has ordered the businesses shut down. Residents were already concerned, though, the parlors could pop back up.
“I really hope that they are closed down, and that they don’t reopen under a different name or things. We had three in our area,” Holt said.
Police said they will do everything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen.
“We are going to do everything we can to make sure that these business are replaced by legitimate business operations, whatever they may be,” Oats said.
It’s unclear if the parlors were connected in any way.
Miami Beach Commissioner John Elizabeth Alemán is hoping other prostitution fronts take notice.
“Miami Beach is about having fun but not at the expense of others, and that if you are a victim of human trafficking, we will help,” Alemán said.
So far, there have not been any arrests. Depending on what police learn during their interviews, they do expect charges to be forthcoming.