CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The six Cranston massage parlors at the center of an ongoing human trafficking investigation have been shut down, according to Cranston Police Chief Michael Winquist.
Winquist said the investigation began after the department received numerous complaints from concerned neighbors of illegal activity happening there.
Three of the massage parlors did not advertise under a business name, while the other three were publicly advertised as a hair salon, foot spa and tanning salon, respectively.
Investigators discovered the massage parlors were advertising “young Asian girls” on websites typically used to sell sex, according to an affidavit obtained by 12 News. On those websites, clients left reviews and described the services they paid for, nearly all of which were sexually explicit in nature.
Detectives raided the six businesses Thursday, during which Winquist said they seized a “substantial amount” of cash, as well as records and information pertinent to the investigation.
“Our residents deserve to live in a peaceful and safe community, and we take all quality life issues seriously,” Winquist said. “I thank the many residents that brought these illegal businesses to our attention.”
Winquist said 11 women were taken into custody and charged with practicing massage therapy without a license.
One of those women, identified as Ann Woo, was also charged with pandering and permitting prostitution.
This is not the first time Woo has been arrested. Cranston Police took Woo into custody on similar charges back in 2014.
Based on the circumstances, Winquist said the other 10 women are being provided “various resources that will help them escape the situation that was imposed on them.”
“We are sensitive to the fact that many individuals are often forced to engage in prostitution and to live in squalid living conditions out of fear,” Winquist said.
As part of the investigation, all of the property owners were notified of the illegal activity, as well as suspected zoning and fire code violations. One of those properties is owned by R.I. Division Of Motor Vehicles administrator Walter “Bud” Craddock, who told Target 12 he was unaware of the illegal activity occurring there.
The investigation is active and ongoing. Anyone who has any additional information is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Lori Sweeney by calling (401) 477-5037 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.