Prostitution Bust Exposes Alleged Sex Trafficking Operation
by Marcus Washington
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Many people involved in the fight against sex trafficking said Monday's alleged prostitution bust of several massage parlors has many signs of sex trafficking.
As officers with the Metro Nashville Police Department escorted the women involved in an accused prostitution ring out one by one, Kathryn Suppes was not surprised at the cover up business.
"This is a real good front for traffickers so they can hide the girls," said Suppes, the Tennessee Director of the Trafficking in America Task Force.
Suppes said there are more massage parlors popping up across the country to disguise sex trafficking.
"It's hard to see because it's underground. So, we don't have a culture where girls stand out on the corner; these girls are bought and sold on the Internet," said Suppes.
Suppes said someone can very easily search the Internet for women, who are often sold in this underground world.
"It's important that we think about, how do we break the cycle of this and it's really looking behind the scenes to the pimps who are actually traffickers," said Suppes.
Assistant District Attorney Antoinette Welch said new laws have created stiffer penalties for those types of crimes, like the Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act, which became law in July 2013.
"You don't necessarily have to have a victim for Trafficking for Commercial Sex Act; if we find that there is proof someone is making profit off of sexual acts occurring, they can charged with that crime," said Welch.
Metro Police and the officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation have a tough job proving a case of sex trafficking.
Suppes said these women are often promised a better life, but forced to live a life of crime.
"They're not enslaved by their bodies; they're enslaved by their minds," she said.
One of the four massage parlors in Monday's bust is less than 1,000 feet from Hillsboro High School. If investigators prove this was indeed a sex trafficking organization, the person responsible could face up to 25 years in prison.
Anyone convicted under the new state law will be considered a sex offender.
Students in the Academy of Energy and Power at Maplewood are busy getting ready for next week's Project Expo and had the opportunity to show it off some of their projects to Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper.