By DANIEL KITTREDGE Eleven people have been charged in connection with raids on six suspected illegal massage parlors across the city last week, according to Cranston Police, after a months-long investigation found "evidence of labor trafficking as well
Eleven people have been charged in connection with raids on six suspected illegal massage parlors across the city last week, according to Cranston Police, after a months-long investigation found “evidence of labor trafficking as well as prostitution” at the establishments.
Meanwhile, Gov. Daniel McKee has asked Rhode Island State Police to investigate a top state official’s connection to one of the massage parlors, which has operated out of a building that official owns.
In a statement issued Friday, Chief of Police Co. Michael Winquist announced the June 17 raids, which he said resulted from an investigation by detectives.
Following numerous reports of suspicious activity at six separate locations throughout the city, the Cranston Police Department’s Special Victims Unit embarked on a months-long investigation that culminated in a coordinated raid of these of suspected illegal businesses,” the chief’s statement reads. “During their investigation, detectives uncovered what they believe to be evidence of labor trafficking as well as prostitution. A substantial amount of United States currency was seized, and records and information that will be utilized in an ongoing investigation of human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations continues to assist with the joint investigation.”
According to police, the businesses shut down as a result of the raids include Tim’s and Maria Hair Salon at 761 Park Ave.; Little Genie Tanning Salon at 1340 Plainfield St.; Natural Care Foot Spa at 96 Rolfe Square; and unnamed businesses at 938 Park Ave., 973 Reservoir Ave., and 1732 Broad St.
Ten women were charged with practicing massage therapy without a license, according to Winquist. Most have addresses in Cranston, while others are listed as residents of Warwick, Boston and New York.
Ann Woo, 58, of 1340 Plainfield St., Cranston, was arrested at the Little Genie Tanning Salon on the same charge along with one count of pandering/permitting prostitution, according to the chief. His statement notes Woo was arrested in Cranston on “similar charges” in 2014.
“Yesterday’s operation demonstrates the commitment that our police department has in shuttering businesses in our city that our fronts for illegal activity to include prostitution and sex trafficking,” Winquist said in the statement. “Our residents deserve to live in a peaceful and safe community, and we take all quality life issues seriously. I thank the many residents that brought these illegal businesses to our attention. We are also sensitive to the fact that many individuals are often forced to engage in prostitution and to live in squalled living conditions out of fear. We are actively assisting many of the persons encountered during yesterday’s operation with various resources that will help them escape the situation that was imposed on them.”
Since the raids, multiple media outlets have reported that Division of Motor Vehicles Administrator Walter “Bud” Craddock – a former chief of the Cranston Police Department – owns the Broad Street property that was raided during last week’s operation through the entity LUC Realty Holdings LLC. The same location was raided in 2017 during a similar investigation.
Craddock has denied any knowledge of the alleged prostitution activity at the location, but has shared with the media a letter of eviction to the current tenant based on last week’s raid.
McKee, meanwhile, has asked State Police to review the situation.
“The governor is fully committed to ensuring all resources are utilized to obtain all the facts in this disturbing case,” the governor’s office said in a statement.