UPDATE: November 17, 2021 8:47 p.m.
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — After a multi-agency, six-month-long investigation, the Panama City Police Department announced the arrest of several people in connection to human trafficking and prostitution charges on Wednesday.
Panama City Police, Panama City Beach Police and the Bay County Sheriff’s Office are all working to dismantle human trafficking operations in our area.
“The FBI is actively looking into it as well as all of our agencies are looking into it and it is something law enforcement is receiving a good bit of training in right now is in human trafficking to recognize it and how to investigate it,” said PCPD Interim Chief, Mark Smith.
Along with our local agencies, the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Department of Health, and the State Attorney’s office were all able to work together on a six-month-long undercover investigation into six massage parlors suspected of human trafficking and prostitution.
“They have spent long hours watching these businesses, going inside these businesses, and conducting undercover operations in conjunction with like I said the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and other local agencies,” Smith said.
Police first became aware of the human trafficking and prostitution allegations when neighboring businesses and customers of the massage parlors began to sense something wasn’t right.
“We had folks that were actually going to these, looking and seeking a legitimate massage and came out feeling that there was human trafficking going on inside the business and were contacting law enforcement,” Smith said.
The FBI has been brought in to help determine who is a victim and who is a key player.
“We have a large number of people that we have picked up that do not speak English and so we have had to bring interpreters in that are able to speak their foreign language,” Smith said. “So we’re having to work with those interpreters and these individuals to figure out what is their involvement in this and how did they get from their country to this country.”
Through this investigation, police said they are able to shut down these illegal businesses and help those who are victims.
“But also at the same time, we have the opportunity to possibly remove some of these people from the human trafficking world that they’ve been trapped in,” Smith said.
Arrests were made on Wednesday but police are not ready to release that information because there could be additional charges for additional people.
Our prior version of the story is below:
BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Multiple individuals were arrested on prostitution charges from six different massage businesses, according to the Panama City Police Department.
The six-month-long investigation stemmed from complaints by neighboring businesses.
Individuals from the following businesses were arrested on multiple charges:
Da Cozy Spa, Panama Beach Spa, Lili’s Spa and Massage, Oasis Massage and Spa, Blossom Massage, and Joun Spa.
Anyone having information on this case is urged to call the Panama City Police Department at 850-872-3100, or they can report tips anonymously via smartphone by downloading the “Panama City PD” Tip 411 app from the iOS or Google Play stores.