Brothels in Bellevue Busted

So, yesterday 12 brothels operated out of high end apartments were shut down in Bellevue, 12 men and 1 woman arrested for promoting prostitution according to the Seattle Times and 12 trafficked women from Korea freed, with two related websites also shut down.

“Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said King County is the first jurisdiction in the country to charge ‘an organized group of sex buyers’ with promoting the prostitution of women from South Korea, who are brought to the U.S. to work as prostitutes and are shuttled between major cities.”

About the websites KING 5 reports:

Sheriff John Urquhart says two websites — thereviewboard.net and kgirldelights.com — were seized and shut down. The “K” in kgirldelights.com stands for Korean. Police say the websites were used to rate, discuss, and promote the prostitution of women.

“Information shared on the site was used to exploit the foreign-born women, mostly from Korea, who were also being shuttled from one city to the next on a monthly basis. Organizers of the network encouraged sex buyers to consistently visit the most desired prostituted persons advertised so that they would be kept in the Seattle area longer,” said the sheriff’s office in a statement.

Ironically, kgirldelights was set up by  owner of TheReviewboard.net and 50 0f his most prolific posters who formed an invitation only group called “The League” to avoid police notice, according to the Seattle Times. Most of those arrested were members of “The League”.

KING 5 says:

Urquhart said kgirldelights.com was run by “The League,” made up of a group of businessmen. The women were forced into prostitution to pay debts, often being held against their will. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said some of the women were forced to work every day, up to 14 hours, servicing up to 10 Johns per day.

As the Seattle Times notes: “‘Many of the members made comments that indicated they were aware these girls were more than likely trafficked and had little choice in choosing to work as prostitutes,’ say the charges.” Indeed, the KING 5 story includes a link to some of their comments and posts to TheReviewboard.net:

An example:

Since it was her first day I asked if she was nervous. She didn’t understand. I tried, “scared?” Out came the phone as I spelled it, s…c…a…r…e…d. Suddenly a pained look came over her face. I actually thought she was going to cry. “Yes! I scared!” and she buried her head on my chest and embraced me tightly for a moment. Oops maybe not a good question to ask. But soon she looked up at me and said “thank you.” I’m not sure what for but breathed a sigh of relief.

Of course, if you’re to believe SWOP, echoed these days by Amnesty International, the johns and pimps/madams/brothel owners, as well as “sex workers” themselves are supposed to rescued those trafficked. Hmm, that didn’t seem to happen, and there were 22,000 members/johns on TheReviewboard.net board who would have seen these kind of reviews. The reviews of obviously trafficked women should been noticed by the “sex workers” in SWOP themselves as they shared the website.

Wait, SWOP is upset about this. Upset that the review websites have been shut down.  KING 5 says:

In a bizarre twist, prostitutes held a protest in the lobby of the sheriff’s office while he and other law enforcement officials were briefing news reporters at a press conference.

The prostitutes showed up to protest the closing of the website, thereviewboard.net, which they claim allowed them to assess clients and determine who is safe and who is not.

“Sites like this allow us to screen clients and advertise without standing on the street corner,” said Maggie McNeill, who says she is a prostitute.

“’It (the shutdown) increases the odds a sex worker needing to make rent will take an unverified client,’ Savannah Sly, president of the Sex Worker Outreach Project, wrote in an email.”

Of course, these websites weren’t at all safe for the Korean women being trafficking. It’s not clear to me at all from the documents what kind of screening is done of the men (other than in the KING 5 video, it says they were screened to make sure they weren’t cops), although some of the advertisements for the women mention “standard screening” or requiring references. Mostly these sites seem to be for screening the women being sold. I doubt they get to rate the customers.

In fact, as the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS) says that: “Contrary to misinformed perceptions, review boards such as these are NOT a safety net for women in prostitution. Rather, these boards simply promote the market for commercial sex to a point where women are considered chattel and violence against women is encouraged and promoted.”

As survivor leader Alisa Bernard points out in another KING 5 story “the fact that one of the more prominent sites is gone provides some sign of progress.

‘That means there are 18-to-20,000 men who are not buying sex on that site,’ she said. ‘They have officially lost their victim population.'”

Oh, wait, I almost missed the spin on the local SWOP Seattle site. In addition to stating their concern “about collateral damage the website’s closure will have on adult workers in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest”, they suggest that:

“Migrant sex workers, especially Asian migrant workers, are often inaccurately labeled as trafficking victims,” Savannah Sly, SWOP-USA Board President and former Seattle-based sex worker, said. “I don’t doubt that King County prosecutors will wave this is a victory against human trafficking, highlighting the presence of migrant Korean sex workers on TRB to indicate abuse. Just because a women came to the U.S. and works as an escort does not mean she did so involuntarily. These assumptions are blatantly racist and xenophobic. Many migrant workers in the sex trade, domestic work and agriculture emigrate and work voluntarily. It’s criminalization and stigma of sex work and immigration status that makes these workers so vulnerable, not the work itself.”

Sure. We’re all xenophobic if we’re concerned about trafficking. Women are just migrating because they want to see the inside of a brothel and strange naked men in a foreign country.

 

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2 thoughts on “Brothels in Bellevue Busted

  1. Laurie Burke

    Hi Colleen, Wow, 12 brothels in Bellevue and I’m sure there are more that weren’t discovered. It would be interesting to find out who the members of the League are. I’m sure we’d recognize some names. That’s for covering such an important issue. Laurie

  2. Hi Laurie,

    The names of those in the League arrested so far are in the original Seattle Times article:
    http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/online-site-where-men-rated-prostitutes-is-shut-down-charges-to-be-filed/

    Sadly there no doubt a lot more, that’s one thing I’m learning about the issue. Seattle is evidently just the tip of the iceberg for this ring. In the press conference video, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said there were 15 states involved, and the Bellevue Police Chief had previously mentioned 12: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Minnesota, Texas, Georgia, Illinois, Virginia, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. They moved these women around from state to state and compared notes on their review boards. From what they said in the press conference, Washington isn’t their usual point of entry,so who ever is trafficking them from in from Korea is in another state.

    The press conference is posted on the Demand Abolition site:
    https://www.demandabolition.org/washington-employs-new-approach-to-end-online-commercial-sexual-exploitation/

    Businessmen and luxury apartments in Bellevue. Especially disturbing is that I don’t see how they couldn’t have realized these women were trafficked. Makes you wonder how much of this is going on.

    Colleen

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