Major prostitution bust in East Bay

February 21, 2008 6:56:23 PM PST
At about 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, the Alameda County Sherriff's Department said that they were looking into this as a possible network of human trafficking.

Now they are downplaying this, and said it appears that this is just another prostititution ring ? a big one nonetheless.

One by one, the women involved in Thursday's prostitution raids were brought to this command post in Alameda County. The women were detained and questioned.

"Most of these women are from Asian countries, so we have translators from those areas to try to get to the bottom of why they are here and if they are free to move about," said J.D. Nelson from Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

Twenty-five people have been arrested so far. The spokesperson for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department says the women were working at prostitution houses masquerading as massage parlors and spas.

It all started with a tip, then other concerned neighbors started calling in. Bob Swanson is a field representative for Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley; that office contacted police.

"I think we were only on of many who may have clued them in; there might be something fishy there," said Swanson.

ABC7's Lyanne Melendez: "So you tipped them, so to speak?"

"Yes ma'am," said Swanson.

"We've been working on this since late last year where we have done surveillance and undercover operations," said Nelson.

He says audio surveillance tapes are part of the evidence.

Erin Dye works across the street from where one of the raids occurred. She recalls seeing police keeping an eye on the people coming in and out of Castro Valley Care.

"We didn't know what it was, but we just noticed that every now and then some cops or someone would come. You wouldn't know they were cops, they would just sit there for a couple of hours," said Dye.

Fourteen agencies are involved in this investigation.

"We've had situations where massage parlors have masqueraded, or prostitution houses masquerade as massage parlors before but not to the size and scope of this where we've come up with 13 all in one day," said Nelson.

Investigators say some of the women had social security numbers and Green Cards, so they'd been in this country for a while.

Some of the items seized include seven high-end luxury cars, $50,000 dollars in cash and they have frozen $200,000 dollars from several bank accounts. That is why investigators are saying that human trafficking networks are not likely.