Three Joplin massage parlors are under investigation for possible human trafficking. The tip came from the business next door to one of them.
Emily Furrh works with Elizabeth Turner Law Firm and shared a building with one massage parlor.
She says there were often strange and unsettling events next door. “Men yelling a lot,” says Furrh. “Sometimes, they were yelling in other languages that we couldn’t understand,”
Slowly, their suspicions grew. The “Therapeutic Massage” parlor was really an illegal sex operation.
“My husband and I had dinner one night. We came back at 10 to pick up my vehicle, and there were still men coming in and out. The men, sometimes, as they would exit (Furrh covers her face with her hand, hiding her face in the same way she would see some of the men).”
Workers at the Elizabeth Turner Law Firm called the FBI and Joplin Police Department about their suspicions. The JPD says a total of seven women human trafficking victims were found in three different massage parlor locations.
Seven suspected female victims are receiving assistance and no arrests have been made. Joplin Police Department served three search warrants as part of an on-going human trafficking investigation. Captain Trevor Duncan tells News Talk KZRG no arrests have been made.
“These women were victims. There was nobody present that would be arrested at that time. There’s a lot of concern about why no arrests were made. ‘Why is it that you have a crime with seven people and that nobody was arrested?’ That doesn’t mean that there were people there guarding them or things like that. Nobody was arrested, not because we chose not to make arrests, but because there was nobody there committing a crime to be arrested.”
“I know there were sexual improprieties that had been reported,” says Karolyn Schrage with Life Choices in Joplin.
Life Choices is now offering services to the seven women from Asia.
“There have been lots of tears, there have been lots of hugs. There was watching the ice skating last night and cheering for their countries! They’re women who just want to see their kids taken care of,” says Schrage.
Schrage says the women’s kids are still overseas.
“If we, as a community, can tell your students, tell your children how to respect women, what that looks like, how to treat people with respect and kindness, then a lot of these things won’t be issues,” says Maggie Schade with the Southern Missouri Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
Life Choices is making sure the women know more than victims, they are survivors. Soon, the women will have the option of flying back home, free of charge.
But there are still “bosses” projecting abuse.
Schrage points out, “It just takes one person to make a call and say hey, what’s going on in that business next to me?”
–From several wire services