A massive prostitution ring spanning the Bay Area was busted Thursday when 125 law enforcement officers from six cities, three counties and the federal government descended on 10 locations, served search and arrest warrants and arrested eight people on charges of operating the ring.
More arrests are expected, investigators said, and charges may include human trafficking of immigrants.
The eight arrested, whose names were not released, have been charged with conspiring to operate a prostitution ring.
Hayward Police Department led the operation and launched the investigation that led to the arrests about a year ago when some Hayward residents
complained of suspected prostitution at a neighboring house. Hayward police officers found evidence supporting
the claim, as well as evidence suggesting that the Hayward home was part of a larger ring of brothels all around the Bay
The investigation widened to involve police from Oakland, Berkeley, Sunnyvale, Newark, Danville and San Jose as well the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and the sheriff offices of Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties - all working under a multi-agency process set up by the Alameda County DA’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking Watch program.
They uncovered an operation described by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office as “a sophisticated ring of brothels where scores of immigrant Asian women are exploited to further the ring’s lucrative enterprise.”
The investigation is ongoing, officials said, and expects to indentify more suspects and victims. Investigators esitmated that "dozens of women have been brought into the United States" from Taiwan and China and "cycled through these targeted Bay Area brothels."
About a half dozen nonprofit social service and human rights organizations helped in the operation, particularly in providing services to victims identified by the police. Ten women were recovered from the operation yesterday, investigators said. Organizations helping them include Asian Community Mental Health, Standing Against Global Exploitation, Bay Area Women Against Rape, Women Inc. and Community Violence Solutions.
“Yesterday's multi-agency operation, stemming from the Hayward Police Department investigation, is a testament to this regional commitment,”said Sharmin Bock, Assistant District Attorney in charge of Special Operations and Policy Development and head of the HEAT Watch Unit. "This is a historic operation" because of the number of agencies involved and because it was the first conducted under the new regional law enforcement cooperation process set up by the HEAT Watch program.
"Efforts of this magnitude and this degree of collaboration by local, state and federal law enforcement and service providers are unprecedented and bode well for future efforts to successfully combat the HEAT epidemic plaguing our region," Bock said.
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