We’ve uncovered complaints from citizens dating back to last year. One witness who also went to police is now speaking out to the I-Team.
So, we investigated why we didn’t see a crackdown until now.
Recently, the Cuyahoga County Human Trafficking Task Force carried out raids in Middleburg Heights, Lake County and Strongsville.
Video from Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputies gives us a new look at the first moments of one raid.
You see an investigator come face-to-face with a woman in a small room.
Another detective chases a woman running away.
In the meantime, we reviewed complaints from several people about New Hi Spa in Strongsville going back to January of last year.
The complaints mention prostitution, sex acts, money laundering and human trafficking.
We asked one witness to tell us what made him so suspicious that he went to the police.
“That’d be the first thing they’d offer you, you know, sex for money,” he said. “At first, I was just impatient but, they can’t just take one complaint and do a raid.”
We also went to Strongsville Police Chief Mark Fender.
“We take every complaint very seriously, and at that time, we sent detectives out,” he said.
Fender added: Sometimes, you can’t build cases overnight.
Ultimately, the Cuyahoga County Human Trafficking Task Force led a larger investigation which resulted in multiple raids. Detectives with the task force are still following up on women they believe were forced into sex work. The task force is also looking at 500 customers.
“You can go in there and make an arrest for a misdemeanor … or, you can take a closer look at it and say, ‘You know, we think we got something bigger here,'” Fender said.
If you call the phone number now to that spa in Strongsville, the number is disconnected. Also, the front door is locked. The police chief says the business is now shut down. He told us investigators also found fire code violations inside.
All of it adds up to the action citizens wanted.
“It was not even a secret over there. It was so obvious,” said one witness.
No charges have been filed, as the investigation is not finished yet.
The case will likely go to court soon, so a grand jury can decide on charges.