An investigation team, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Safe Streets Task Force and Bellingham Police Department (BPD,) served search warrants on six Bellingham businesses suspected of promoting prostitution on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
The team served search warrants at Imperial Spa in the 1200 block of Barkley Blvd, Golden Foot Spa in the 200 block of E. Chestnut St., Cheerful Healthy Massage in the 1500 block of Birchwood Av., Rub Hub Body & Foot Spa in the 4200 block of Meridian, Oriental Chinese Foot Spa in the 100 block of W. Kellogg, and Lu’s Foot & Spa in the 400 block of W. Bakerview Rd.
The investigation into the businesses began several weeks ago after the Bellingham Police Department received several complaints of suspicious activity at some of the businesses in question. Further investigation, including surveillance and covert contacts with the businesses, provided sufficient evidence for search warrants. The investigators were looking for additional evidence for the crime of promoting prostitution.
During today’s searches, investigators seized business records, cash and transaction receipt information from the businesses. Additional people associated with the businesses, including owners and patrons, will be contacted by investigators in the coming weeks.
There were no arrests made during today’s warrant services as these investigations are ongoing. Employees, all of whom were adults, were interviewed by investigators during the warrant services. The primary objective of the interviews was to learn whether force, fraud or coercion was being used to compel the employees into commercial sex acts against their will. The investigation team had direct access to advocates from Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS) for any of the employees of the spas who wanted or needed to access services.
“The Bellingham Police Department works in cooperation with our federal partners on these important investigations because we are committed to ensuring the safety of all our citizens, especially those who may be victims of sex trafficking,” said Bellingham Police Chief David Doll.
Anyone with information which may assist investigators in this case is encouraged to contact BPD via our tip line at www.cob.org/tips or Officer C. Brewer at 360-778-8652.
To learn more information about sex trafficking, please visit www.humantraffickinghotline.org.
If you or anyone you know may be a victim of human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking Hotline is confidential, toll-free and available 24/7 in more than 200 languages. Call: 1-888-373-7888 Text: “BeFree” (233733) Chat: humantraffickinghotline.org
Correction: FIrst article indicated the incorrect day – the warrants were served Thursday, June 13, 2019.