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LISBON, Maine -- In this mill town just north of Portland, the Korean women who walked to its center for groceries and occasionally ate at the Subway shop on Route were something of a novelty, a cultural curiosity among Lisbon's predominantly French-Canadian and Slovak descendants.
But there was something more, said Nissa Spaulding, manager of the Subway shop that shared space in the strip mall where the women worked until earlier this month. The doors of the storefront that employed the women were always locked, she said, and the women seemed to be there at odd hours. Those doubts were confirmed when police raided the storefront in June.
Officers found an undressed woman atop a naked man and another partially dressed woman in a massage room with a nude man, according to an indictment filed in federal court in Portland.I-Team: Cover-up of Sheriff Sex Scandal?
One woman was discovered sleeping in a small massage room used as a bedroom, the indictment said. Law enforcement officials say the Koreans were part of a syndicate that ensnares women who are desperate for residence in the United States and willing to prostitute themselves. Authorities say the women worked in establishments advertised as massage parlors -- in the case in Lisbon, the ''Asia Accupressure Therapy Center" -- that are, in fact, fronts for elaborate prostitution rings run from New York and other large cities. The organizations, authorities say, are branching into New England to operate businesses that often go unnoticed in the setting of a strip mall.
Sex personals Spaulding such venues, some local police investigators say, the sex trade flourishes, populated by women who work as prostitutes to pay fees to the smugglers who secured their entry into the country. In Vermont, eight women were detained last month on suspicion of illegal immigration.
In Maine, four women were charged in June with illegal immigration and one with federal prostitution charges. Federal authorities say they do not yet have evidence of human trafficking: fraud or coercion leading to forced labor, such as prostitution.
Investigations are ongoing in Maine and Vermont, said Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that oversees federal investigations into human trafficking and smuggling. Donna Hughes, professor of women's studies at the University of Rhode Island and an analyst on sex trafficking, said that documenting the trafficking of women is difficult because of language barriers and the women's reluctance to talk, for fear of retribution. They are told their family back home will be tortured. Hughes said that prostitution businesses masquerading as massage parlors have long lured Korean women, some of whom have had relationships with American military personnel stationed in South Korea.
When the relationships break off, Hughes said, the women often find themselves estranged from family and without resources. Many then opt to flee the country, often to the United States, with the help of traffickers who lure them into the Sex personals Spaulding trade.
Local police say prostitution rings are expanding from their urban bases into such small communities as Essex, Vt. Or Lisbon, a town of 9, residents 22 miles south of Augusta, where the last arrest on prostitution charges was too long ago for Sex personals Spaulding Brooks, the police chief for the past 24 years, to remember when it happened. Brooks said the Asia Accupressure Therapy Center came under suspicion when Lisbon police received a tip from South Portland authorities that the operator of a massage parlor there was believed to be doing business in Lisbon, as well.
Police observed the center for six months before the June raid. The manager of the operation, according to the affidavit, was Doo Ri Kim, She was arrested in New Jersey in on prostitution charges stemming from her work at a brothel that was being investigated for illegal smuggling of foreigners, the court records show. Deportation proceedings were initiated against Kim, but she was released on condition that she stay in contact with immigration authorities. Instead, she broke contact and took up residence in Lisbon in January Sex personals Spaulding woman, who is not named in the indictment, said the massage included ''a cleansing shower" and, if requested, ''sexual acts, i.
Kim's attorney, Neal Stillman, said he had not read the indictment and could not discuss the specifics of the case. No of the business remains in the empty storefront in the beige, shingled mall. Around town, revelations about the center initially provoked titters and bad jokes. But what lingers is dismay and disbelief that big-city vice apparently found its way here.
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