William Coleman, 48, was charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking and nine counts of sex trafficking in U.S. District Court in Springfield. He was arrested on Dec. 23 and has been held behind bars ever since.
Laws cracking down on human trafficking are on the books in all 50 states, but convictions are notoriously elusive, and state prosecutors haven’t come close to matching the success their federal counterparts have had in winning cases.
They are near pizza shops, coffee shops and schools — massage parlors that are offering more than just a massage. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says they are in the business of selling sex.
An Attleboro, Mass. doctor Sujan Kayastha, 37 was in court Thursday on several charges, including trafficking of a person for sexual servitude, possession of child pornography, and two counts each of electronic enticement of a child for prostitution, paying a minor for sex and disseminating obscene matter to a child. The boy is 14 years old. Kayastha’s bail was set at only $75,000..
“The demand is what drives all of this,” said Nikki Bell, founder and CEO of LIFT Worcester, which works to empower survivors of sexual exploitation in central Massachusetts. “A pimp isn’t going to sell a woman if nobody’s going to buy her, right? You’re not going to stand on a corner if nobody’s going to come to pick you up, right? So, it’s very clear that’s where our efforts should be focused.”
For the women caught up in “the life,” it is a seedy and violent reality that can often be hidden or overlooked by the rest of society.
Chen Chen, one of nearly a dozen bodyworks spas in Worcester alone, had 59 reviews as of this past week at one so-called “john board” online, where massage-parlor customers describe the sexual services offered at spas across the country. Mentions of the place at another online board go back to 2013. The business operates behind drawn blinds in plain sight. A pink plastic flamingo marks the side entrance to the spa in the former Ricciardi Bros. contractors’ building, on a dead end bordered by a junkyard a block off Shrewsbury Street’s restaurant row. In the window is a light-up sign that reads, “OPEN.”
“Sexual exploitation in all of its forms is reprehensible,” Markey told the Globe’s Bob Hohler. “These allegations are very alarming, and I have confidence that the authorities will be investigating this matter fully to get to the truth.”
When state Rep. Vincent Pedone, D-Worcester, stepped up to Statehouse podium in 2006 to call for the regulation of massage therapy, he was quickly met by laughter and catcalls that filled the chamber and cut him short. The bill that passed that day — despite lawmakers’ laughter, but policymakers and society still don’t take massage, and the human traffickers who increasingly hide behind it, seriously.
In Norwell, MA. the Platinum Body Works Spa was housed in a nondescript blue Cape along a commercial stretch of Route 53. But workers at the neighboring business knew it was no ordinary massage parlor.
The Worcester woman is a survivor of sex trafficking. She said that although the Florida investigation involved Asian immigrant women being virtually imprisoned in sexual servitude at spas, the underlying issue is no different from prostitution on the streets of the city.
A Medford, Mass. woman has been sentenced to five years in prison for running a human trafficking and money laundering ring out of massage parlors that were used as fronts, the state’s attorney general’s office announced Thursday.
A Lynn woman who worked at a Saugus group home for children referred by the Department of Children and Families has been indicted for allegedly prostituting a child who lived there, officials announced Friday.
“Because of the location we are in, we are fairly rural, people want to think this doesn’t happen around here and kids are not exploited around here, but unfortunately it does happen at a frequency that is all too high,” said Kellie Beaulieu, Child Abuse Unit Coordinator for the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.
Two men have been indicted in connection with trafficking multiple victims for sex, including minors, on Cape Cod and in Boston, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today. One of the defendants is also charged with enticement of a child and posing a child in a state of nudity.