SEATTLE -- Federal prosecutors in Seattle say six people have been arrested in a four-state prostitution ring that exploited women who emigrated from Thailand.
The investigation began with a tip about a Kirkland apartment complex. The U.S. attorney's office said Monday the conspirators advertised Asian women for massage services on backpage.com, and that they rented apartments in Bellevue and Kirkland, Wash.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Chicago; and Falls Church, Va., to use as brothels.
Prosecutors say most of the women were recruited in Thailand, and many had overstayed their visas in the U.S. They owed as much as $60,000 in smuggling debts to the woman accused of leading the scheme, 34-year-old Unruean Aboulafia of Bellevue.
Aboulafia's lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Prosecutors say most of the women came to the U.S. knowing they would be sex workers to pay off their debts.