And, yes, human trafficking. From a press release sent by our local US Attorney Jenny Durkan today:
Six people who operated a web of apartments in four States used as brothels were indicted last week for conspiracy to transport individuals for prostitution, conspiracy to use a communications facility to promote prostitution and conspiracy to engage in money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. The indictment was returned following an undercover investigation involving the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Kirkland Police Department, the Bellevue Police Department, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The conspirators advertised Asian women for ‘massage services’ on backpage.com, and leased apartments in Bellevue and Kirkland, Scottsdale, Arizona, Chicago, Illinois, and Falls Church/Tysons Corner, Virginia. Some of the defendants will appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:30 p.m. today.
“These defendants exploited vulnerable women immigrants to enrich themselves,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan... the women owed debts of as much as $60,000 to the leader of the prostitution ring, for providing them with the employment opportunities in the U.S.
Emily Langlie, the press contact for the US Attorney's office, said she could not characterize whether backpage.com assisted, hindered, or had no role the investigation.
And this is another argument for legalizing and regulating prostitution. Just like the drug market—underground economies are much more vicious and nasty than above-ground economies.