Federal Suit Seeks Damages for Men Illegally Recorded at Florida Massage Parlors, Falsely Smeared as Sex Traffickers
A man arrested in a 2019 sting operation at Florida massage parlors is now suing over what he alleges was unconstitutional surveillance by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Florida detectives. The arrest was part of a large-scale prostitution bust that prosecutors falsely portrayed as a mission to rescue “human trafficking” victims working at Asian massage parlors. The workers have wound up being the only ones in legal trouble.
The operation—carried out by cops in three Florida counties and aided by federal agents—gained national media attention after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution as part of it.
In Palm Beach County, the state recently dropped the charges against Kraft and a few dozen other men charged with solicitation, after a federal court ruled the surveillance video underlying these cases was illegally obtained.
In nearby Indian River County, more than 150 men were charged with solicitation as a result of the same operation. Their charges have also been dropped. Now, one of them has filed a federal civil lawsuit to see that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again.
Keith Taig is seeking to obtain class-action status for himself and anyone who was surreptitiously filmed while visiting the Vero Beach–based East Spa between November 29, 2018, and January 27, 2019, and subsequently slapped with criminal charges. “This class action stems from an egregious constitutional violation of the class members’ fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution when they were surreptitiously monitored, and illegally recorded, and filmed,” states Taig’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Massage Worker Cases the Only Ones Not Dropped
While prosecutors dropped all cases against the men who were surveilled, publicly humiliated, and used to make claims of a sham trafficking bust, the women who these men patronized did not get off so easy. In fact, the only people prosecuted in this “human trafficking bust” have been the women who staffed these massage businesses—the very people police assured the public that they were in this to save.
Four massage workers arrested in the Indian River County busts have already pleaded guilty to prostitution. Two additional female defendants are still staring down serious charges (to which both have pleaded not guilty).
East Spa owner Liyan Zhang, 43, was charged with 30 counts of engaging in prostitution herself, along with operating a house of prostitution (a felony) and racketeering (a felony charge often tacked on to prostitution cases if two or more sex workers band together).
Lanyun Ma, 51, who reportedly managed East Spa and nearby AA Massage, has been charged with misdemeanor engaging in prostitution and three felonies: deriving support from prostitution, transportation for prostitution, and racketeering.
Some local press continues to report that Ma
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