The announcement of Robert Kraft’s arrest for prostitution in Florida has claimed to have brought about a renewed interest among police in businesses fronting as establishments for such actions because of money according to a report from USA Today:
Large parts of the investigation into what officials say are illicit spas and paid-sex operations represent new territory for law enforcement officials, who say lots of money is involved.
“We are building the plane as we’re flying it, we’re learning, (Homeland Security Investigations) is learning, we’re uncovering a lot of the way that these organizations work,” Martin County sheriff’s Lt. Mike Dougherty said Friday. “We’re seeing the way that the organizations are functioning as far as the money and the spas and the girls, the transactions.”
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder and other officials this week disclosed five spas in Martin County and Jupiter were being investigated as part of a human trafficking probe involving sex for money.
Arrests have been made of the those accused of running the spas and those accused of exchanging money for sexual favors. Dougherty said aspects of the case are eye-opening.
“I never in a million years imagined it would be this much money involved,” he said.
He said between $180,000 and $200,000 in cash was seized through the search warrants at spas and homes.
Dougherty said federal agencies are involved in “tracking money from China into the United States and laundering it here and sending it back other places to be laundered.”
He said in general the massages are $75 to $100, but sex services are more.
“We’ve seen up to $300, $400 changing hands,” he said. “It’s unreported money. That’s where it adds up quick. … You’re not getting sex for $50 or $75 or $100.”
He noted about $3 million in asset forfeitures through bank accounts.
“These people are reporting no income or very little income,” Dougherty said.
A state report showed Ruimei Li, 48, of Jupiter, who was arrested on a host of charges, including racketeering and money laundering, was the only person earning income from Bridge Day Spa in 2017 and 2018, records state. Li reported she earned $4,500 per quarter from Bridge Day Spa.
“The spas will make $20,000, $30,000 a year total, and yet they’re pulling in hundreds of thousands of dollars that we know of,” he said.
Dougherty said what they learned from federal investigators is that when one spa opens and is successful, another opens and then another.
“Before you know it, your area is inundated,” he said.
Asked about possible links between the spas in Martin County and others in Indian River County that officials disclosed Thursday, Dougherty made an analogy to ownership of Toyota dealerships.
“As it goes up the line, they’re all owned by Toyota,” he said. “They’re sort of like franchises.”
Federal agencies, he said, are working to “follow this pyramid, this organization to try and connect them and move to the top.”
“We can show an organization here with definitely five spas in this area that’s run by one person with another assistant,” he said.
He said federal officials are tracking the electronic trail of cash.
“We’ve seen excessive amounts of money come into these bank accounts and move around, way, way, way, way more than you would ever imagine a spa of any sort,” he said. “We’re talking tens of millions of dollars.”
He said women at the spas are taking tests and getting massage licenses, but don’t speak English. He said the tests are given just in English and Spanish.
“So how are they taking these tests?” Dougherty said. “We can’t say that it’s fraud but we … can say that they can’t speak the language and take the test, so how are they doing it?”
According to Dougherty, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has said she is looking into that.
Snyder has said the women came from China, and Dougherty said he can’t say whether they are here illegally.
“They have documents; now whether they’re legit or not, we don’t know,” he said. “What I can tell you is they come out of China and they … go through Flushing, New York.”
He said they arrive by plane and all their documents come from Flushing.
“That’s where the funnel comes to a tip,” Dougherty said. “When they come in this country and then they move out anywhere to L.A. to Miami, all over the place.”
Dougherty said in terms of the local impact, shutting down the spas is considerable, but maybe not so much in the big picture.
Interestingly, also taking place in Florida at almost the same time is a story about Jeffrey Epstein, the infamous child rapist, pimp, and owner of “Pedophile Island,” who is also close friends with both Hillary Clinton and President Trump. He was found to have been “illegally” given a plea agreement in which he was able to plead in such a way in court so as to virtually eliminate all charges brought against him and to silence any future claims for civil damages against him by his dozens of victims made in his ventures, and the deal was made without telling his victims:
Federal prosecutors, under former Miami U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta, broke the law when they concealed a plea agreement from more than 30 underage victims who had been sexually abused by wealthy New York hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
While the decision marks a victory for crime victims, the federal judge, Kenneth A. Marra, stopped short of overturning Epstein’s plea deal, or issuing an order resolving the case. He instead gave federal prosecutors 15 days to confer with Epstein’s victims and their attorneys to come up with a settlement. The victims did not seek money or damages as part of the suit.
It’s not clear whether the victims, now in their late 20s and early 30s, can, as part of the settlement, demand that the government prosecute Epstein. But others are calling on the Justice Department to take a new look at the case in the wake of the judge’s ruling.
“As a legal matter, the non-prosecution agreement entered into by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida does not bind other U.S. Attorneys in other districts. They are free, if they conclude it is appropriate to do so, to bring criminal actions against Mr. Epstein and his co-conspirators,’’ said lawyer David Boies, representing two of Epstein’s victims who claim they were trafficked by Epstein in New York and other areas of the country.
Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced it was opening a probe of the case in response to calls from three dozen members of Congress. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee, on Thursday asked the DOJ to re-open Epstein’s plea deal.
“The fact that it’s taken this long to get this far is heartbreaking and infuriating,’’ said Sasse. “The Department of Justice should use this opportunity to reopen its non-prosecution agreement so that Epstein and anyone else who abused these children are held accountable.”
Epstein’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, did not return a call from the Miami Herald.
Brad Edwards, who represents Courtney Wild — Jane Doe No. 1 in the case — said he was elated at the judge’s ruling, but admitted he is troubled that it took 11 years to litigate. He blamed federal prosecutors for needlessly dragging it out when they could have remedied their error after it was brought to their attention in 2008.
“The government aligned themselves with Epstein, working against his victims, for 11 years,’’ Edwards said. “Yes, this is a huge victory, but to make his victims suffer for 11 years, this should not have happened. Instead of admitting what they did, and doing the right thing, they spent 11 years fighting these girls.’’
Marra, in a 33-page opinion, said prosecutors not only violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by not informing the victims, they also misled the girls into believing that the FBI’s sex trafficking case against Epstein was still ongoing — when in fact, prosecutors had secretly closed it after sealing the plea bargain from the public record.
The decision follows a three-part series published by the Miami Herald in November, “Perversion of Justice,’’ which detailed how federal prosecutors collaborated with Epstein’s lawyers to arrange the deal, then hid it from his victims and the public so that no one would know the full scope of Epstein’s crimes and who else was involved.
The 66-year-old mogul lured scores of teenage girls from troubled homes — some as young as 13 — as part of a cult-like scheme to sexually abuse them by offering them money to give him massages and promising some of them he would send them to college or help them find careers. Future president Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew and other world leaders, scientists and academics were friends with Epstein, who also owns a vast home in Manhattan, a private jet, and an island in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he now lives.
Marra, noting that he reviewed affidavits, depositions and interrogatories — presumably some of them sealed — showed “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others, ’’ the judge said.
Instead of prosecuting Epstein under federal sex trafficking laws, Acosta allowed Epstein to quietly plead guilty in state court to two prostitution charges and he served just 13 months in the Palm Beach County jail. His accomplices, some of whom have never been identified, were not charged.
Epstein’s victims were not told the case was closed until it was too late for them to appear at his sentencing and possibly upend the deal. Two of them filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida in 2008, claiming that prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which grants victims of federal crimes a series of rights, including the ability to confer with prosecutors about a possible plea deal.
Marra said that while prosecutors had the right to resolve the case in any way they saw fit, they violated the law by hiding the agreement from Epstein’s victims.
“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,’’ Marra wrote. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.’’
The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami declined to comment.
Acosta, who was nominated as labor secretary in 2017, issued a written statement through a spokesman:
“For more than a decade, the actions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida in this case have been defended by the Department of Justice in litigation across three administrations and several attorneys general. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures. This matter remains in litigation and, thus, for any further comment we refer you to the Department of Justice.”
Michelle Licata, who was molested by Epstein when she was 14, said the judge’s decision was “a step for justice.’’ But she still questions why federal authorities have failed to open a new case against Epstein, given that more victims and evidence has come to light in recent years.
“They should see if they can prosecute him for something. I mean, really prosecute him — instead of giving him 13 months where he was allowed to come and go as he pleased. I just want to see him face some consequences for what he did.’’
Francey Hakes, a former federal prosecutor, said the Crime Victims’ Rights Act doesn’t spell out any punishment for violating its terms, so it would set a precedent to re-open Epstein’s agreement.
“Epstein will surely argue he complied with the agreement, relied upon it, and plead guilty under it so it can’t be overturned in fairness to him,’’ she said. “I will be very interested to see what the parties say the remedy for the violation should be. Ultimately, it is simply shocking the Government went to the lengths they did to keep the victims in the dark in order to make a serious predator’s high priced defense team happy. Justice should not, and does not, look like this.’’
There has been no statute of limitations for sex trafficking since 2002, but Edwards and other lawyers involved in the case said they tried without success to get federal authorities to investigate whether Epstein’s crimes went beyond Palm Beach.
In an op-ed published Sunday in the Herald, Jeffrey H. Sloman, the former first assistant U.S. Attorney under Acosta during the Epstein case, defended their decision to give Epstein federal immunity. He claimed that many of the victims were too frightened to testify against Epstein.
He also noted that there were “significant legal impediments to prosecuting what was, at heart, a local sex case.’’
Marra suggested otherwise in his decision, saying: “Epstein and his co-conspirators knowingly traveled in interstate and international commerce to sexually abuse Jane Doe 1 and Doe 2 and others, [and] they committed violations of not only Florida law, but also federal law.‘’
The bulk of his opinion quoted emails exchanged during the tense negotiations between federal prosecutors and Epstein’s legal team, which included Roy Black, Jack Goldberger, Alan Dershowitz, Jay Lefkowitz and former Whitewater and Clinton prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
Those emails suggested ways in which both parties tried to keep Epstein’s victims in the dark, he said.
“The CVRA [Crime Victims’ Rights Act] was designed to protect victims’ rights and ensure their involvement in the criminal justice process…’’ Marra wrote.
“…Under the facts of this case, once the Government failed to advise the victims about its intention to enter into the [non-prosecution agreement], a violation of the CVRA occurred.’’
Victims advocates applauded the judge’s decision.
“This is a tremendous victory for crime victims and for the rule of law. The Court made clear that the statute was enacted to make crime victims full participants in the criminal justice system,’’ said Jeff R. Dion, executive director of the Zero Abuse Project. “And when the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. The Government’s conduct was a clear violation of the CVRA, and the court must now consider a remedy.’’ (source, source)
These two stories are critical to place side-by-side with each other and to preserve because they happened at virtually the same time and illustrate an important point about what “justice” has become.
It is true that there is no such thing as “perfect” justice in this life, and that certain crimes will be dealt with by God in the afterlife. This is undoubtedly true. However, there are cases and patterns of behavior illustrated which are unjust but give important insights into the values, beliefs, or operational processes of a society.
The former is a case of a wealthy man who went to an Asian spa, of which most major cities and increasingly, smaller cities are getting throughout the US, and for which a considerable number serve as fronts for prostitution. In this case, this man is essentially being prosecuted for getting a “happy ending” at a storefront business.
Now I am not nor do I wish to justify his actions, since they are clearly not good. However, there are many questions and problems with his story and that of the police that need to be discussed before looking at the case with Epstein.
First, and quite to the contrary of what many would think, is that such businesses fronting as brothels in the US often times do not actually enslave people, but rather the women working them come to these establishment knowing full well what they are going to do:
The extent to which massage parlors are involved in sex trafficking is largely unclear. Most of the women working in the parlors are smuggled into the country illegally from China, Korea, Thailand, and other Asian countries and are forced to use their tips to pay off exorbitant snakehead debts. But while some of the women are thought to have been brought to the US under false pretenses, Agustín points out that many women are aware that they will be working in the sex industry.
The setup puts the erotic massage parlor trade squarely in the gray area of sex trafficking, with law enforcement unable to determine which women are being coerced into performing sex acts in massage parlors and which women are having sex with customers voluntarily. “All undocumented women in commercial sex are not trafficked,” said Agustín, who has spent 20 years researching the commercial sex industry. “Migrants weigh up many factors when undertaking risky life projects.” While there is no formula for preventing employers from exploiting sex workers, she added, legalizing and regulating erotic massage parlors would at least give the women working in the parlors legal recourse to go to the police, change jobs, or quit. (source)
This is not to say that abuse does not happen, because it clearly does happen. However, it is similar to the case of prostitution in Western Europe, which is dominated by women from Eastern Europe and in particular those from Romania and Ukraine. While abuse certainly does happen, the women are going to the West with the intention of becoming a prostitute because it pays a lot of money fast, is an easy job, the income can be shielded from taxes easily, and they view it as a lever to a better life.
The assertion from the police above about “human trafficking,” while there is truth to is, it also a lie because for many of these women, the only person they are trafficking is themselves. While prostitution is immoral, the desire for these women, as with many people, to immigrate to the US in the hope of earning more money is so great they choose to become prostitutes and work in these places in order to earn money that they can either send back to their families or which they can use in order to “spring board” themselves to a better life.
This leaves the only serious reason why the police are interested in these businesses, which is money.
Under American law, “asset forfeiture” is a huge business for police departments. While it varies by state, many police departments are known to abuse this to earn money for their departments.
On February 20th, 2019, Shoebat.com reported how the Supreme Court made a huge ruling that says unless the police can show probable cause for seizing an asset, which can include everything from a person’s keys to his car, house, and any and all cash he has, and its relationship to a crime, they cannot seize it. This ruling also opens the way for many people who have been nothing less than robbed by police to recover their assets in court, and for police departments to be forced to pay damages. It was a very important case, as it upholds the simple words of the Eighth Amendment that says a person cannot be subject to unreasonable search or seizure of one’s person or belongings.
Police Departments, who as noted above made a tremendous amount of money from essentially legalized highway robbery, now cannot do this any more. As a result, they need to find a new source of income to expropriate in order to keep the current level of funds at they levels they are accustomed to. These “massage” businesses, which are overwhelmingly run by immigrants, do not always engage in illegal activity. However, there are enough that do, and given how police are known to engage in forms of entrapment to meet arrest quotas, are using this prostitution sting in combination with simple lying about the state of human trafficking in these establishments, as the police are allowed to legally lie to a person but a person cannot lie to the police, to justify further “raids,” which is simple asset confiscation for the purposes of making money.
This is the reason why, according to the Daily Beast, police put a “sneak and peek” warrant into the business. This is not about actually “helping trafficked women,” as they allege, but about (a) meeting arrest quotas for the prison-industrial complex, and (b) about using said crimes in order to seize the assets of these businesses for the police coffers.
Having noted all of this, consider the above case of Jeffrey Epstein. While the migrant women mentioned above give “happy endings” and almost all are adults and doing so by choice, Epstein’s victims were underage as many of them were forced into doing what they did. The former did so by choice and is relatively mild, while the latter were forced and severely abused.
It was no “accident” from Federal prosecutors that they treated Epstein the way they did, especially considering all of his powerful connections. If the Federal government truly wanted to prosecute somebody they would find and use any statute available, such as in the infamous trial of Chicago gangster Al Capone, who was sent to prison on “tax evasion” charges because he was very careful not to directly connect legal guilt for crimes to him. Epstein was allowed to go free because of internal deliberations which one will either never hear about, or maybe in several decades in somebody’s personal memoirs.
While both situations are not good, what is objectively a more serious offense- paying $20 to $60 US for a “happy ending” from an immigrant woman who voluntarily chooses to do this to earn extra money, or running a business where wealthy men pay thousands of dollars to rape teenage girls captured and held against their will as sex slaves on a private island in the Caribbean?
The answer is clearly the latter.
But the fact is that the police- and by “the police” I speak of the collective attitude and worldview of the average American police department as a general paradigm in the national sense and not in an individual or absolute sense -do not care because there is no money in it for them. This also parallels the general treatment of illegal immigration from Mexico by the government, which is a thing that is not only encouraged by the US Government as it is needed to support the US agricultural industry, but is also used as a political football by politicians in both parties and to justify policies at the expense of the people.
A similar case is taking place here, except this is using the existence of such establishments, which are well-known in all cities, in order to boost arrest records so to justify more federal and state funding and also seize cash from these businesses to compensate for the fact that they cannot rob the common man as easily as they have previously done. In the meantime, the real victims of true forced prostitution, such as those committed by Mr. Epstein, are told they cannot receive compensation because of an “error,” and are forced to bear their pain in the lonely silence of their own brokenness.