When you’re a part of an industry that law enforcement is always after, you might have to come up with creative ways to run your business without raising any red flags. The trafficking industry has been one of the consistently growing sectors. Front businesses for illegal activities are not a new thing. Here are some of the most creative coverups using legitimate businesses for running a human trafficking racket…
The Entertainment Industry
Musicians, Dancers and Special Performance Groups travel across the globe while on tour. This gives them an easy fix to hide ‘special talent’ in plain sight. The so-called talent that usually specializes in ‘pleasure services’ is skilfully hidden within the crew as performers. In 2016, Daler Mehndi was convicted and awarded two years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 1000 in a 15-year-old human trafficking case. Mehndi and his brother were accused of helping people illegally immigrate to the United States in exchange of ‘passage money’. It was alleged that the Mehndi brothers took two troupes in 1998 and 1999 during the course of which 10 persons were taken to the U.S. as group members and “dropped off” illegally.
In October 2017, former Pussycat Dolls member Kaya Jones alleged that the band was a front for a prostitution ring. She claimed that during her time with the band she was forced to participate in sexual acts. While many came to her support, former band members and management personnel denied her claims.
Spas, Nail Spas & Salons
Spas are infamous for paid sex. Nail spas and hair salons being in the same league might surprise a few. Most of these spas and salons have workers from poor European and backward Asian countries. Financially weak people often are victims of human trafficking. South Boston saw a significant growth in the number of nail spas. A majority of these were owned by Vietnamese immigrants. The Boston Police Department received an anonymous tip suggesting that one of these spas might be a part of a prostitution ring where employees might be forced to provide sexual services in exchange for a fee. The Boston PD launched an investigation and the owner of the spa is currently being tried in court.
It would be almost unrealistic if an industry that sells on sex appeal didn’t have a few legal violations of its own. It is common knowledge of what the models have to go through to be a part of the industry, from starving to surgery. In late 2017, the owner of a modeling firm in Thailand surrendered in a human trafficking case. This was a result of a leaked video of the accused slapping two of the firm’s dancers over firm rule violations. Later, the women who were assaulted in the video revealed that the agency forced models to provide sex services to customers.
In another instance from 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigations launched a probe Jeffery Epstein, a billion financer who allegedly molested over 40 underage models with the help of a modeling agent and scout. Investigations revealed that Epstein purchased a 14-year-old Yugoslavian girl for him to use as a ‘sex slave’.
Hotels and Party Promotion Businesses
Hotels play a very important in facilitating the sex trade. Cheap tariffs and easy access make them the backbone of the out-call industry. But many times, hotels go from felicitating the trade to participating in it. In 2013, a 37-year-old hotel owner from Delhi was arrested for running a prostitution racket in his hotels based in Delhi and Gurgaon with an Uzbekistan citizen named Dilkhuja. The accused forcibly held two women from Uzbekistan, who were raped repeatedly by multiple men over a time of 6 months in his hotel rooms.
Hotels regularly tie up with party organizers and party promotion businesses. These serve as a cover up for prostitution. In a 2013 report from CBS Baltimore, it was revealed that police discovered a party promotion business being used as a front for a prostitution racket. The owner of the said business would provide transportation so that women could reach to their clients in hotel rooms across the city. The police charged two individuals in the case.
If there is one thing that most people desire early morning, it is a cup of coffee. However, one coffee stall chain decided to take it a step ahead. In 2014, CBS reported that a Seattle-area business owner has been charged with promoting prostitution and money laundering, after allegedly using her baristas in a bikini coffee stand to sell sex acts. Carmela Panico, a 52-year-old former nude dancer banked over $2 million in 3 years through her illicit business. Her baristas made money mostly on tips, saying they could earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorities said. The women said they could make up to $14 for baring their breasts or genitals and charged more for sex acts, according to charging documents. Authorities believed that the accused had avoided paying full taxes by dealing large amounts in cash.