Sex worker, brothel bust a mess

New details about the April 21 “Operation Doll House” raid and resulting arrests appeared in today’s RJ. As you probably know, 25 women were arrested in the bust.

(And before I go any further, is it just me or is that name completely tacky and possibly racist? “Doll House” to name a 2-year sting operation on an illegal Asian brothel in Las Vegas. Am I the only one who sees something wrong with that?)

In today’s story we learn that what had first been represented as a human trafficking case may just in fact be happy sex workers, you know, working for a living. The illegal brothel (despite popular mythology, prostitution is still illegal in Las Vegas — you gotta go a couple of towns over to get legally serviced) is reported to have ties to Asian countries as well as other countries. And I can see why on first glance that might send up a warning flare.

FYI: Trafficking is when a person, often someone who is trying to immigrate to the US, is coerced into doing forced labor (anything from prostitution to construction work to domestic labor). Three years ago Las Vegas was identified as one of two dozen US cities with the potential to become hotbeds of the crime.

But if Metro has been investigating this for two years, including sending in undercover officers to be propositioned for $150, wouldn’t they figure out that the sex workers were more of the freelance variety than trafficked slaves?

Here’s what the story says:

Dave Staretz, chief division counsel for the FBI’s Las Vegas field office, said none of the 25 women found during the Operation Doll House busts was a victim of human trafficking.

“As soon as this operation went down and all the prostitutes were interviewed, the FBI and Metro, on the ground as well, did not identify any human trafficking issues, that women were being held against their will in any way,” Staretz said.

“They were all there voluntarily. They expressed they were happy with the money they were making.”

Staretz’s statements challenged earlier statements that the women had been forced into prostitution.

Soon after the busts, Lt. Dave Logue, who headed the investigation for the Metropolitan Police Department, told the Review-Journal: “Some (of the women) were brought here by force, and some were tricked into coming here with the promise of a good job.”

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