GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) – There has been a crackdown on crimes involving prostitution and human trafficking in Colorado. The FBI says it’s making a new push because it’s seeing those kinds of crimes on the increase.
CBS4 recently reported on a case in Golden where feds busted a massage business called Happy Feet. Agents say it was a storefront for prostitution and money laundering, among other crimes.
Agents say a rise in the commercial sex industry, like what they suspect at Happy Feet, is why a task force was formed to help combat the slew of crimes they’re seeing: prostitution, money laundering, human trafficking and tax evasion. They also want the international victims who are pulled in to know they will help them.
“Did some Googling online and the advertising was such that it didn’t leave any question that it was happy endings, not happy feet,” said Stephan Ruffatti, Ruff’s Barbeque owner, whose business is near Happy Feet.
Business owners near Happy Feet say they knew something was wrong when an all-male clientele began showing up all hours of the day and night.
Paula Hawkins owns a Curves gym next door. She says the women who worked inside Happy Feet raised another red flag.
“They would just shush themselves right into their little establishment and didn’t want to have communication,” Hawkins said.
The Colorado Trafficking and Organized Crime Coalition, known as CTOCC, says there are many tell-tale signs to the growing commercial sex industry. It includes the housing of a large number of people in a small place, coming and going at all hours, often foreign and non-English speaking. Victims are recruited by the promise of a better life.
“They’ll tell them, ‘You can come to this country, but we have debt that you have to pay, so it’s going to cost you to work off this debt,’ ” Dave Joly with the FBI said. “It can be anything from forced labor to commercial sex trafficking in itself.”
A federal indictment says the Happy Feet defendants Hyo-Sook Ko and Patrick Kim supplied prostitutes, condoms, shower massage tables, and even gave the prostitutes housing. They were charged with prostitution and money laundering because agents say the money made there was then sent to South Korea.
The Happy Feet defendants were not charged with human trafficking but agents say bureau wide they are seeing women who are being trafficked state to state via massage parlor businesses.
Statement From The FBI
The Colorado Trafficking and Organized Crime Coalition (CTOCC) is a Local, State, and Federal Task Force established to combat Human Trafficking and Organized Crime in the State of Colorado. CTOCC investigates cases involving adult labor victims. Investigations involving juveniles, to include juvenile prostitution matters, are investigated by the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force. Some of the CTOCC’s investigations have involved massage parlors. Current members include the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Lakewood Police Department, Arvada Police Department, Wheat Ridge Police Department, Englewood Police Department, the Colorado State Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, the Department of State, and the FBI.
CTOCC has observed an increase in requests from local police departments asking for assistance in investigate human trafficking.