The Korean parlors are part of a decentralized network that operates in practically every major city and increasingly in rural areas, Ellerman says. The parlors share information; the people who set up and run the parlors move from state to state setting up new ones.
One owner may control parlors in several states, trafficking women back and forth. Traditionally, the owner hires a brothel keeper, usually an older Korean woman. Many of the women were first prostitutes around US military bases in Korea; some erican GIs.
Most of the marriages failed, Ellerman says. “Most of the women, who didn’t speak English, were outcasts in the Korean community here because they had married a GI and were in the sex industry, so they couldn’t easily get jobs or support from the community. They were left with very few options and easily recruited into a massage parlor.”
Some parlor workers are from Thailand and other Asian countries, but those most commonly selling sex are younger Koreans in their late teens to late twenties, brought to America with the promise of a new life and jobs at places such as restaurants
They are smuggled in from Canada and Mexico and arrive owing the smuggler a large debt. To pay it off, they are recruited into the parlors.
They advertise by word of mouth
“When the women arrive,” Tina Frundt says, “they don’t speak the language, and the brothel keepers scare them. They tell the women they XXXBlackBook can leave but they’ll be arrested and deported and, by the way, you have a debt on your head.”
A network of Korean taxis transports the women across the country. The women use the taxis because most do not have identification, don’t want to travel on planes, and can’t use public transportation because they don’t speak English, Ellerman says.
The Asian parlors are generally “open,” which means anyone can enter. Latino parlors are “closed”–they cater almost exclusively to Latino customers.
While Asian parlors usually pose as businesses, the more than 100 Latino brothels are almost exclusively residential, operating out of homes and apartments in Latino communities. There are more Latino parlors in the suburbs, Ellerman says, “because there is a larger Latino population there.” Catering to a largely working-class population, they charge less than the Asian brothels but rely on high volume.
“The standard pricing is $30 for 15 minutes,” Ellerman says, “so literally women have to have sex with 20 to 30 men every day. Many of the men are abusive, drunk, and refuse to wear condoms. The conditions are horrible, and you have a much higher frequency of child trafficking. It’s so much worse than the Korean brothels.”
There are Korean-only operations in the suburbs, especially in Fairfax. Officer Richard Henry of the Fairfax County Police Department says authorities there have conducted 30 operations in the last 18 months on massage parlors. The operations mainly stemmed from citizen complaints. Latino brothels dominate in Arlington, operating out of apartments and homes, Detective Rick Rodriguez says.
Montgomery County has its share of underground brothels, mostly Latino and some Chinese, but it has stamped out all 24 of the commercial-front massage parlors that used to operate there by passing a law requiring that massage parlors be licensed and enforcing the regulations.
“You’ll never get rid of prostitution,” says assistant county attorney Jim Savage, “not even in Montgomery County. But it’s not as blatant as it used to be. At least you don’t have them advertised in the paper and flaunting the fact that they are operating in the open. Clearly, it’s all underground now.”