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SALT LAKE CITY — A 10-month investigation uncovered nearly a dozen Utah massage parlors being used as fronts for sex trafficking, state authorities said.
The Utah Attorney General's Secure Strike Force on Tuesday executed search warrants on 11 businesses, three residences and four cars along the Wasatch Front.
Investigators say the warrants led to the questioning of more than a dozen women and one man being taken in custody. No charges have been filed.
"Our hope is to find evidence of trafficking in person," said Attorney General Sean Reyes. "We are gathering evidence that we need to build cases. But from our understanding, it is the largest collective human trafficking sting in the state."
Our hope is to find evidence of trafficking in person. We are gathering evidence that we need to build cases. But from our understanding, it is the largest collective human trafficking sting in the state.
–Attorney General Sean Reyes
Reyes declined to talk about specifics of the investigation but said often in sex trafficking cases there is a lead person who moves women around to different fronts, collects money and sends it to the women's home country.
The first words out of one woman's mouth when investigators arrived was, "Help me. Please, please help me," he said.
Many of the women put themselves at risk if they testify against the traffickers, Reyes said, adding that the state provides resources and counseling for them and hopes they will cooperate in the investigation and prosecution.
Reyes couldn't say where the women in this case came from. In similar circumstances, he said, some are abducted from their home countries or duped into coming to the United States.
The investigation began with information from an Ogden police officer assigned to the strike force, which includes the Utah Department of Public Safety, and federal and local law enforcement agencies.
Contributing: Marc Giauque