SEVERE WX : Heat Advisory View Alerts

State Attorney General uses new law in Huntsville to fight human trafficking

Four massage parlors in Huntsville were issued temporary restraining order. This means they're doors will be locked and all their assets have been frozen until a judge holds a hearing.

Posted: Apr 19, 2019 6:43 PM
Updated: Apr 19, 2019 7:35 PM

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall says four North Alabama massage parlors were fronts for human trafficking.

Investigators shut down the Massage and Foot Care parlors in Huntsville, Madison and Decatur, along with the Health Massage parlor in Huntsville.

Temporary restraining orders have been issued against the owners of the massage businesses. This means their doors will be locked and all their assets have been frozen until a judge holds a hearing.

Kirk Wickizer, who lives in Huntsville, said he was shocked to hear about the operation inside four North Alabama Massage parlors.

"You drive by and see the massage sign. You assume it's going to be a back massage with all the signage and everything, but apparently not," Wickizer said.

Marshall said in a legal complaint that the investigation revealed employees inside four businesses were being forced to work longs hours and also to engage in sex acts with customers.

The Alabama Board of Massage Therapy was a part of the investigation and said it's investigators concluded the businesses were providing sex in exchange for money.

It's unclear how the investigation started, but Wickizer said he doubts customers brought it to the attention of authorities.

"If the customers are getting what that they want, then they aren't going to be blowing the whistle, are they?" he said.

Marshall's office said the victims are from China. Investigators say the parlors' owner and her daughter gave the victims little freedom, and transported them to and from the parlors in groups. They were eating and sleeping in terrible conditions, according to investigators.

Right now, we don't know how many victims there are, or where they're being held. The owner and her daughter are only charged civilly. We don't know if they'll face criminal charges.

The attorney general says this is the first time he's used Alabama's Civil Human Trafficking Law. He said it allowed his office to move in quickly and seize assets, to shut the parlors down.

Alabama House Bill 305 was signed into law in 2018. It gives the Attorney General the ability to go after businesses in a civil manner before criminal charges are ever filed.

The bill states the Attorney General's office can go into businesses and seize assets if it has reason to believe human trafficking is going on inside. That's what the Attorney General's Office did at the four businesses in Madison and Morgan county on Thursday.

The bill removes the statute of limitations for the Attorney General's office which means it can seek civil relief at anytime.

Tim Gann, Madison County Assistant District Attorney, explained the threshold in a civil case is much lower than in a criminal case, meaning they don't need probable cause, only reason to believe there's trafficking.

While evidence is collected in the civil investigation, criminal components may come to light, and that's when criminal charges could be brought. The Attorney General's Office said it had no comment when we asked about the potential for criminal charges in this case.

The new provisions also established sleeping overnight in a massage therapy business is misconduct, and could result in disciplinary action by the Massage Therapy Board. The board said the four businesses had various violations to the board's rules and regulations. WAAY 31 is working to learn if this was one of them.

Huntsville
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 73°
Florence
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 70°
Fayetteville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 72°
Scottsboro
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7186174
Mobile5206147
Montgomery4690114
Tuscaloosa277754
Madison27299
Marshall209012
Shelby182026
Lee171637
Morgan14296
Baldwin139611
Walker112635
DeKalb11187
Etowah110414
Elmore110124
Dallas102810
Franklin96016
Unassigned81428
Russell7340
Autauga73317
Chambers69332
Limestone6914
Cullman6896
Houston6587
Butler65631
St. Clair6463
Tallapoosa64669
Lauderdale6337
Colbert5826
Calhoun5776
Escambia5228
Lowndes49723
Pike4915
Jackson4722
Coffee4534
Covington43913
Talladega4337
Dale4142
Barbour4133
Bullock38010
Hale36723
Marengo36411
Chilton3563
Blount3441
Marion33214
Clarke3296
Wilcox3258
Winston3157
Sumter30413
Pickens2806
Randolph27910
Monroe2773
Perry2632
Conecuh2478
Bibb2322
Macon2279
Choctaw22112
Greene2019
Henry1613
Washington1588
Lawrence1510
Crenshaw1403
Cherokee1357
Geneva1060
Lamar951
Clay922
Fayette902
Coosa691
Cleburne531
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 66788

Reported Deaths: 767
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby14447229
Davidson14205155
Rutherford383939
Hamilton364838
Sumner210357
Williamson199016
Knox181512
Out of TN173711
Trousdale15135
Wilson127517
Putnam10917
Bradley10615
Unassigned10511
Robertson98413
Sevier9424
Montgomery8507
Tipton7277
Lake6960
Macon6527
Bedford6359
Bledsoe6341
Hamblen5144
Maury5133
Hardeman4564
Madison3952
Fayette3936
Rhea3620
Blount3583
Loudon3342
Dyer3103
McMinn30719
Cheatham3013
Dickson2950
Washington2930
Sullivan2775
Lawrence2596
Cumberland2285
Anderson2192
Gibson2171
Lauderdale2044
Jefferson1961
Smith1872
Warren1640
Greene1632
Monroe1566
Coffee1550
Cocke1520
Haywood1503
Hardin1427
Marshall1322
Giles1311
Obion1313
McNairy1261
Wayne1260
Franklin1243
Carter1202
Hickman1140
Lincoln1060
DeKalb1000
Hawkins1002
Marion1004
Roane940
White943
Henderson900
Chester830
Weakley811
Claiborne800
Overton801
Campbell751
Crockett713
Grundy672
Unicoi610
Cannon600
Grainger590
Carroll581
Polk570
Henry560
Sequatchie530
Humphreys522
Jackson520
Johnson490
Perry440
Meigs400
Decatur390
Morgan341
Stewart320
Scott300
Fentress290
Union290
Clay270
Houston240
Moore230
Benton171
Hancock120
Lewis120
Van Buren110
Pickett80

 

 

Community Events