BENNINGTON, Vt. -- Local and federal authorities executed search warrants Tuesday afternoon at two massage parlors that may be involved with prostitution and human trafficking and include as many as 10 women.
Police seized computers, cellphones, thousands of dollars in cash and business records, which were the primary focus of the searches, according to Bennington Police Detective Sgt. David S. Rowland, who is leading the investigation.
The searches involved six officers from Bennington Police, eight FBI agents and two Vermont State Police troopers.
"What we have to do now is go through all of this stuff and see what it means and what it corresponds to," Rowland said, noting that the evidence recovered seemed to indicate that human trafficking and prostitution has occurred at the spas -- Green Spa at 412 Main St. and Cozy Spa at 240 North St.
Arrests are expected in the case, police said, though none were made Tuesday. Rowland said investigators have been investigating the businesses for nearly two years, conducting surveillance and interviewing clients. They received letters and complaints about the spas that prompted the investigation.
"It started off with rumors and different things flying around," Rowland said. "Then we start looking at different things, talking to people. There were surveillances conducted at both locations. ... Some information was gained through the Internet."
Activity at Green Spa may be linked to a larger ring, he said, while any criminal activity at Cozy Spa appears to be isolated.
"There's ties to a larger city and information points in that direction," Rowland said when asked about Green Spa. He said the spas were "marginally" connected.
There were also indications that some people associated with the spas may be working against their will, according to Rowland, who said a victim of human trafficking may not always appear to be a victim to a passersby.
"It's not typically what we would think of somebody chained in a corner. It could be financial indebtedness and different things like that," he said. "To an onlooker it would look like somebody is free to walk out the door, yet, they really aren't."
A woman at Cozy Spa, believed to be the owner, denied that any improper activity occurred at the business.
"Not here," she said. "Nothing going on here."
FBI agents will likely return to Bennington next week to help sort and analyze evidence.
Contact Neal P. Goswami at
on Twitter: @nealgoswami