The King County Sheriff’s Office say that 12 women, mostly from South Korea, were being trafficked in a prostitution ring that investigators busted this week.
The women are the victims in the case, said King County Sheriff John Urquhart at a press conference on Thursday, and investigators arrested 14 others in raids in King and Pierce counties. Several of the alleged brothels were in upscale apartments in downtown Bellevue. Investigators also took control of two websites that shared information on prostitution — thereviewboard.net and kgirldelights.com, according to reports.
According to Urquhart, the investigation began after a woman told investigators that she was taken from South Korea and forced into prostitution to pay off debts.
Three of the people arrested are allegedly brothel owners, according to news reports.
However, a group that says it advocates for voluntary prostitutes decried the seizure of the websites, saying the action removes a safe platform where sex workers could conduct business.
“The site was valuable to a lot of sex workers,” Capri Sunshine, a spokeswoman for the Sex Workers Outreach Project in a prepared statement. “It was free, undocumented workers without ID or credit cards could use it, and it was where most girls got the majority of their work. This has a lot of negative ramifications for sex workers.”