WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Detectives in the Warren Police Department Special Investigations Divisions have arrested six women in connection with a "commercial sex operation" at two massage parlors in the city.
And Friday afternoon, a translator was used to assist in their arraignments on charges that include prostitution, keeping place for purpose of prostitution, accepting earnings of a prostitute and using a computer to commit a crime.
Investigators said a 31-year-old woman who had been investigated by the FBI and Homeland Security in 2019 for similar crimes is believed to be the head of the operation.
Attorney William Barnwell was in court to represent her.
"The burden of proof is on the government and that's a high burden of proof," Barnwell said. "We'll see if they can meet that burden."
Detectives said the Green Massage Center on 12 Mile Road and China Body Works on Ryan Road are licensed in the woman's name but were being used as a front to allow her and her associates to "perform sexual acts for additional proceeds inside of the two Warren businesses."
Police describe the women, who range in age from 31 to 54, as transient.
They came to the area from various parts of the country but are originally from China, according to police.
"This is not a human trafficking case, at this time," said Warren Police Department Sgt. Craig Bankowski, adding that they began their investigation after receiving tips about the establishments that also advertised online.
Bankowski said that they are not aware if anyone inside the organization, or higher, is restricting the women's movements, so they have not ruled out the possibility that they are victims of sex trafficking.
"I'm not closing the door on any of them potentially being victims," Bankowski said. "In these types of environments, victims don't always come forward until the time and place is right."
Police Chief William Dwyer said they will take appropriate action if it's determined that any of the women are victims and they "will be treated as a victim."