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Police, FBI raid two Bennington spas
BENNINGTON, Vt. -- Police and federal agents searched two massage parlors Tuesday for evidence of human trafficking and prostitution.
Bennington Police initially heard rumors about illegal sexual activity at Green Spa and Cozy Spa from concerned residents about a year-and-a-half ago. Officers soon learned the FBI was investigating the locations for human trafficking and began working together.
“It's not something that we're used to seeing. Prostitution in a small town is pretty limited. You don't hear about that sort of thing,” said Det. Sgt. David Rowland with the Bennington Police Dept.
Investigators seized several boxes of evidence, including business records. Rowland believes it will take some time to go through the documents because some is in Chinese and translators will likely be needed.
Three people were questioned after the raid, including two Chinese nationals and a naturalized U.S. citizen. The doors to Green Spa were locked Tuesday evening. Many residents said they’ve never seen the business open.
At Cozy Spa, a few blocks away from downtown, a neon open sign was turned on and it appeared to be open for customers.
A woman who said she’s owned the business for a little more than a year refused to identify herself and would only speak through a crack in the door. She claimed the investigation was the result of a “routine check” even though this was the first time any officials have come by.
“It just happened because it's a spa they just wanted to check to make sure there is nothing going on,” said the woman. “They were searching in an empty place. There's no human traffic. Nobody over here.”
The woman denied prostitution occurred at the business and said if the allegations were true, her business would be better.
“We are hurting very bad. Very bad because other people don't do business like I do,” she said. “I'm here right? Evidently there was nothing they founded.”
Police said their investigation showed differently and even though no one was arrested or charged on Tuesday, it could happen at a later date as they go through the evidence.
“It created a different aspect for us. You could be looking at people as offenders or you could be looking at people as victims all at the same time, so we have to take a look at what we have and figure out which side of that equation they’re at. There's indicators on both sides.”