Crime

Search warrants served on 6 Bellingham businesses suspected of promoting prostitution

Law enforcement agents enter downtown foot massage parlor

FBI agents and Bellingham Police Gang Task Force members enter a downtown foot massage parlor in Bellingham, Wash. on Thursday, June 13, 2019.
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FBI agents and Bellingham Police Gang Task Force members enter a downtown foot massage parlor in Bellingham, Wash. on Thursday, June 13, 2019.

Investigators served search warrants on six massage parlors in the city that were allegedly involved in prostitution, Bellingham Police announced Thursday, June 13.

The searches on Thursday were conducted by an investigation team led by the Bellingham Police Department and the FBI’s Safe Streets Task Force, Police Lt. Claudia Murphy said in a release Thursday night.

No arrests were made Thursday in the investigation into alleged sex trafficking..

The warrants were served on:

Imperial Spa, 1255 Barkley Blvd., suite 105.

Golden Foot Massage parlor, 207 E. Chestnut St.

Cheerful Healthy Massage, 1530 Birchwood Ave. A.

Rub Hub Body & Foot Spa, 4220 Meridian St., suite 104.

Oriental Chinese Foot Spa, 159 W. Kellogg Road.

Lu’s Foot & Spa, 436 W. Bakerview Road, suite 107.

The investigation began several weeks ago after police received a number of complaints about suspicious activity at some of the businesses, Murphy said.

Investigators used surveillance and covert contacts with the businesses to gather enough evidence for search warrants, according to Murphy.

It wasn’t known Thursday night what the suspicious activity entailed or what the covert contacts were.

During their search, investigators took business records, cash and receipts of transactions from the businesses.

Investigators said they will contact people associated with the businesses, including owners and customers, in the coming weeks.

Murphy said employees, all of them adults, were interviewed.

“The primary objective of the interviews was to learn whether force, fraud or coercion was being used to compel the employees into commercial sex acts against their will,” according to the release.

Employees of the spas who wanted or needed it could get help from Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS), according to the release.

The investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Bellingham Police Department via its tip line at cob.org/tips, or call Officer C. Brewer at 360-778-8652.

Learn more about sex trafficking by going online to humantraffickinghotline.org.

“The Bellingham Police Department works in cooperation with our federal partners on these important investigations because we are committed to ensuring the safety of all our citizens, especially those who may be victims of sex trafficking,” Bellingham Police Chief David Doll said in the release..

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.

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