First, a health inspector spotted several suitcases. Then she noticed an unusual stash of clothing, food and bedding. A young woman who was supposed to be a massage therapist spoke little English and seemed unusually nervous.
The inspector reported her findings to police. They would eventually learn that her suspicions were right: The women were not just employees: They were living in the day spa, sleeping on massage tables and cooking meals on hot plates in the back. Some of them had had their passports confiscated.
Beyond the lurid celebrity connection, however, lies the wretched story of women who police believe were brought from China under false promises of new lives and legitimate spa jobs. Instead, they found themselves trapped in the austere back rooms of strip-mall brothels — trafficking victims trapped among South Florida’s rich and famous.
“I would never consider them prostitutes — it was really a rescue operation,” the sheriff said, training his anger at the men whose demand for sex kept the massage parlors in business. “The monsters are the men,” he added.
So the male customers are “monsters”. What about the folks who actually managed the “human trafficking”? It turns out that they were neither male nor monsters:
Sheriff Snyder said investigators, who worked with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, estimated the trafficking ring to be a $20 million international operation. Men paid between $100 and $200 for sex, the sheriff said; between $2 million and $3 million have been seized in Florida, he said, including a safe stuffed with Rolex watches.
In addition to arresting men ranging in age from their 30s to at least one in his 80s, police charged several women who appeared to be overseeing the operation with racketeering, money laundering and prostitution.
What is the root of the problem?
State Attorney Dave Aronberg of Palm Beach County, whose office leads a human trafficking task force with the F.B.I., said trafficking foreigners to work in places like massage parlors can be more difficult to root out than trafficking, for example, American girls who are recruited in person or online.
So the Times would suggest that we vote for politicians who promise to make it more difficult for people to get into the U.S. (e.g., with a wall along the southern border and restrictions on via tourist and work visas for folks who arrive by air)?
[Note that immigrants in the commercial sex industry are referred to by the Times as “prostitutes,” but when American women work in this industry they are “sex workers” (example).]
Also fun from the front page today: “The Power of a $15 Minimum Wage: Research has found that a living wage is an antidepressant, a sleep aid and a stress reliever. And that’s not all.” (full article) But how is $15/hour a “living wage”? A full-time worker would need to earn closer to $45/hour to be over the income limit for subsidized public housing in NYC (family of 4) and maybe $50/hour to pay for Obamacare insurance without a taxpayer subsidy. The article opens with a young immigrant from Guatemala who has earned permanent residency (Green Card), but whose skills are insufficient to command more than minimum wage. What will happen to him when he is older and less productive and it is illegal for anyone to hire him at less than $20 or $25/hour (or whatever the minimum wage is then)? The photo shows that he is well on his way to obesity and type 2 diabetes. SSDI?