By Bay City News.
A joint operation by law enforcement agencies led to the rescue of 18 victims of a Colombia-based sex trafficking ring that operated hotel brothels in the South Bay, Santa Clara County prosecutors said.
Nine people suspected of working for the union were also arrested in the operation, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said in a statement Tuesday.
Agents seized more than $200,000 in cash from the suspects and froze their assets, including cryptocurrency, prosecutors said.
The investigation into the sex trafficking ring began in March 2022, when authorities became suspicious of the activities of a Colombian couple who had previously been charged with crimes related to human trafficking but were free on bail.
Using wiretaps, investigators examined around 30,000 text messages and calls to one phone number. Evidence showed the number was being used to arrange “dates” between sex workers and clients, prosecutors said, adding that traffickers set up a bank of these dispatch phones for clients to schedule sexual appointments with victims at local hotels. .
The sex trafficking victims came from South America and Mexico and were kept working seven days a week in hotel rooms in the cities of San Jose and the East Bay Area.
The Prosecutor's Office said that the victims were prohibited from leaving the hotel rooms without permission, were kept under constant surveillance and were threatened that if they disobeyed or attempted to escape, their families would be harmed.
According to prosecutors, investigators learned through wiretaps that the syndicate was exploiting more than 30 victims. Six more suspects are still to be captured.
The rescued women receive services such as counseling, medical care, and housing assistance, among others. One of the victims, a teenager from South America, was taken to the Prosecutor's Office's Children's Advocacy Center for care, prosecutors said.
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