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New effort to combat human trafficking in King County after Renton massage parlor bust

A Renton spa employee is suspected of holding a woman against her will and forcing her into sex work. She faces two felony charges.

RENTON, Wash. — A new effort is aimed at putting a stop to human trafficking in King County.

The legislation was recently proposed after a Renton spa employee was arrested and accused of holding a woman against her will and forcing her into sex work.

Quyen Nguyen pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to two felony charges of first-degree attempted promoting prostitution and unlawful imprisonment.

This case prompted one county council member to jump into action.

“[It's] shocking that modern sexual slavery exists in the Puget Sound area,” said King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn.

Dunn called on local leaders to take a comprehensive look at massage parlor businesses. The King County code that regulates them hasn't been reviewed since the 1980s.

Dunn's legislation would get law enforcement and non-profits together to make recommendations.

“We have a code enforcement division, they can red tag these buildings, we can shut them down, we can prosecute if there are violations of law,” said Dunn.

Dunn said a 2013 report done by King County estimated there were 84 massage parlors in the area involved in human trafficking at the time.

“We want to stop businesses from being able to operate any kind or form of human trafficking or sexual slavery,” Dunn said.

Massage parlors are one of the top venues for trafficking and many women who are trafficked are immigrants, often mislead about the type of work they will be doing, according to the Polaris Project.

The victim in this case immigrated to the U.S. and got a job at the spa in Renton, according to charging documents. That's when she said she was forced to pose for photos that were used in advertisements for prostitution. The victim said her life was threatened if she didn't cooperate, according to charging documents. 

Renton police said she was able to run away and call 911. 

KING 5 went to the business to see if anyone wanted to comment, but no one answered after knocking on the front door.

“Those are some of the most serious cases that we have,” said Casey McNerthney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

McNerthney said he knows it's hard for survivors to come forward, but it can be crucial when it comes to a conviction.

“We want survivors to know that we hear them, and we want the public to know that we're taking these cases very, very seriously,” said McNerthney

A final vote on Dunn's proposed legislation is expected next month. Dunn believes the legislation will have bipartisan support. If it does pass

As for Dunn’s proposed legislation, it’s expected to have a final vote in about a month. Dunn believes it will have bipartisan support. If it does pass, the task force has 90 days to make recommendations.


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