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I-Team: Sex Trafficking In The Suburbs

BOSTON (CBS) - Sex trafficking in the suburbs is a growing concern for state and local law enforcement. As Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve found out, prostitution arrests are being made in communities that don't usually see this type of crime.

"See that Body Works… open… sign.."

Police Chief Scott Nix points out a small business that's a big problem for him -- sex sold -- right in the middle of a quaint plaza on busy Route 20 in Sudbury.

Nix says, "it's portrayed that they would provide some type of reflexology treatment, versus a massage, because massage is regulated by the state, and from there certain things were offered during the appointment."

After a sting, an undercover detective filed this report -- saying the unlicensed masseuse "made an attempt for my groin" --- as she indicated "I can take care of that for you." The woman was charged with soliciting sex. The I-Team sent a producer into the office -- but on this day was told nothing "special" was being offered.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is seeing a spike in store front operations offering services called reflexology, acupressure and Asian body works. Some are legal and legitimate. Many are not. And while massage parlors are regulated and inspected, sites offering these alternative therapies don't draw the same scrutiny.

Coakley says, "I think that is what is allowing for this other industry to come in and kind of hide behind that."

A concern for many communities is where these businesses are popping up. For example, a little commercial district in a suburb like Braintree. A few years ago an arrest was made at a business on Commercial Street which offers Thai body work.

North Andover Police Chief Paul Gallagher says "they advertise everything is Asian, like it's a different type of massage."

And his town had the same problem -- sex being sold in a quiet retail area. After a sting, the police report stated the worker "placed her hands on the officer's genitals."

Gallagher says, "somebody is making money in this because these young ladies were not making money, they were kind of in squalor."

The women arrested in North Andover were from New York, and believed to be victims of a thriving sex trafficking business.

Audrey Morrissey escaped a life of forced prostitution, and counsels young women trapped in that nightmare. She says these suburban sites are booming.

"It sickens me," says Morrissey. "It has made it more convenient and easier for these men to buy sex without being detected."

There are even websites that review the services -- offered in some of Boston's nicest suburbs. Diligent Police like Chief Nix can keep their eyes on the facilities in their towns, but the Attorney General believes this might be much bigger.

"We are focusing on the people selling, organizing the business, making money off it, and we have tried to look at the women who are in this business, many of whom have been brought to this country under false pretenses," said Nix.

The Attorney General tells the I-Team her office has brought 13 indictments and complaints against these kinds of establishments. Because these operations could be organized overseas, she is also looking for help from federal law enforcement.


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