Police: human trafficking investigation at south Tampa spa - FOX 13 News

Police: human trafficking investigation at south Tampa spa

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The sign outside the small Henderson Boulevard building reads "Ocean Spa Massage," but neighboring businesses say they knew better.

"All of us here in this little strip center and across the way have always known that this is a form of prostitution," said Katherine Cusmano.

Their hunches may have paid off Thursday as Tampa police raided the business under the suspicion that it was a front for prostitution.

"Based on the undercover cases that we made where there were acts of prostitution offered for money," said Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

Castor said the business ended up on their radar after they received an anonymous tip late last year.

In addition to the undercover work, Castor said more evidence presented itself when the health department went in for a routine inspection.

"As the health department worker came in the front door a number of females ran out the back," said Castor. "During that inspection they found that there were mattresses, clothing a great deal of food inside of this location indicating that people were actually residing inside of the business."

Three women were detained Thursday, one American who appeared to be a manager and two Korean women.

"We have an interpreter that is speaking to them and we are trying to get to the bottom of where they came from, why they're here," Castor said.

Investigators believe they might be here as part of a larger human trafficking ring.

"As everyone knows, human trafficking is the modern day form of slavery," said Castor.

Investigators say there is also evidence online to support Ocean Spa was doing more than offering massages.

"Customers were rating the service that they received here at this location and it all indicates that there's prostitution activity going on," said Castor.

Neighboring businesses say there's normally a steady stream of cars lining up behind Ocean Spa, that line of customers stopped for a moment Thursday.

They hope it ceases for good.

"I think it would be wonderful, I think it would help our business," said Cusmano.

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