COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - From prostitution to human trafficking, our monthslong investigation into Asian Spas in El Paso County found us on the trail of a Korean woman who was the target of a Homeland Security investigation.
It all started at Paris Spa in Colorado Springs.
We surveilled this business when it was bustling with customers four months ago, but now it sits quiet and closed.
Do you remember this woman? Her name is Hye Kyeung Seo.
We showed her before in this surveillance clip taken back in April as she was taking a smoke break outside. We didn't know who she was at the time, let alone her connection to the spa until months later when we saw her again at the Colorado Springs Airport.
Seo was handcuffed by Homeland Security. We'll explain more about that later.
Warning: this material is graphic.
We've kept a special eye on Paris Spa given the volume and explicit nature of its reviews and ads,
clearly showing these women are expected to provide oral and vaginal sex.
The reviews prompted complaints from neighboring businesses and property owners. Then, our journey got much deeper with a tip.
It painted a very clear picture of what else could be happening behind closed doors at Paris Spa.
"She's doing... she's doing... these bad things. I don't like how she does a sexual job, you know. Like a sex manufacturer, like those kinds of job. I don't like it," said a source close to Paris Spa.
Those are the words of our source, who asked to remain anonymous due to her fear of retaliation from the enterprise.
But our source had enough evidence to suggest Seo would bring women from Korea to come serve as sex workers at Paris spa, receiving little money in return.
"I wish she would just stop doing this kind of job... that's it," she said.
But the tip wasn't just about the brothel. During this conversation with our source, she said Seo regularly money laundered upwards of $100,000 back to Korea every three months.
"I don't like what she's doing," she said.
So our team showed up at the Colorado Springs Airport on May 30 to speak with Seo directly.
We knew she was flying out on a 5 p.m. Frontier flight to Las Vegas. We were about to walk through the airport doors when we got a call from police to stand back and post up inside the airport by the Frontier Airlines check-in desk.
From then on, it played out just as our source said it would. Seo was traveling with her sister and nephew.
Meanwhile, our team was sending updates to police on their whereabouts.
Shortly after, Seo walked out of an elevator handcuffed by Homeland Security. We didn't realize at the time, we were in the middle of a sting by the feds.
So Stephanie followed Homeland Security as they brought Seo through the airport and into a black SUV.
We later learned after Seo's arrest that she was brought to the ICE Detention Center in Aurora, yet it's unclear what charges, if any, she will be facing before being deported back to Korea.
We do know Seo was in the U.S. illegally. We also know ICE investigates human trafficking, sex trafficking, and money laundering.
But it's unclear just how long Seo will be held here. Despite the fact that she was clearly arrested, the DOJ reports no formal charges are currently filed against her.
It made us ask the question: could she be used as an informant?
It's possible. According to Mary Laderhome, a social worker in the anti-trafficking movement.
"We know there are different nuances with this issue. Is she being forced to run this brothel? Is she herself being trafficked? We don't always know from the surface level - what an experience looks like," said Laderhome.
Following the bust, Paris Spa closed, but we don't know what happened to the sex workers forced to work and live inside.
"Every survivor I've met wants a better life, they want to not be exploited, they want to have access to employment, they want to live and have access to education and live just as we all do," Laderhome said.
We can only hope the women working at Paris Spa were properly rescued with an opportunity for a better life.
Meet Frank Polland.
He's the property manager of "Springs Massage" in Colorado Springs.
Our team researched and tracked down all 36 property owners, like Polland, who are leasing to spas in greater Colorado Springs.
"Very respectfully sir, I'm just pointing out as the property manager we want to hold you accountable and I think you should take another look at this establishment," we said.
"Oh, I'm accountable. I'm accountable," Polland said.
We then went on to explain the explicit nature of the reviews posted online about Springs Massage. Yet Polland denies there is any illegal activity going on.
"We don't have any illegal activities going on at this shopping center at all," he said to us three times.
According to RubMaps.com, a site that reviews erotic parlors, there have been 43 reviews that were made by men over the past couple of years detailing oral and vaginal sex for sale. These reviews grade the women on their physical appearance, hygiene, and even breast size.
"My question to you, are [your relatives who own the property] going to continue to look the other way and allow this kind of activity to go on?" we asked.
"I'm the property manager, and I'll look into that," Polland said.
So in the meantime, I paid a visit to Springs Massage to see for myself. I asked for a woman named "Lucy" one of the women reviewed online.
"Is Lucy here," Stephanie asked.
"I don't know Lucy, I'm sorry," said the woman working inside Springs Massage.
"How many people work here?"
"How long have you worked here? Where did you come from?" we asked
"Less than a week. I came from San Diego," the woman said.
Most of these women are trafficked from Asia into the U.S. through big cities on the west coast. They're forced to provide sex for extra money and deny it.
"Is sex for sale here?" Stephanie asked.
"Who? Oh, ahh, no," the woman said.
There are red flags that indicate signs of a criminal enterprise. We talked with Julee Bellar, the chairman of the Human Trafficking Taskforce of Southern Colorado, who said these property owners need to be held accountable.
"They need to step up," said Bellar. "If they rent to a business, they need to know what's going on in that business. And they need to be beyond sure."
So our team wanted to reach out to every single listed property owner that's leasing to a spa in our area. We traveled all across the state knocking on doors, asking them directly if they're aware of what's going on.
Many of them didn't want to talk or slammed the door in our face. Yet, some did acknowledge they will terminate their lease at the end of their contract.
Following our coverage three spas have shut down:
- Paris Spa
- Ruby Spa
- Charm Spa
According to RubMaps, two other spas are also listed as closed:
- A & S Spa
- 99 Massage (listed as non-erotic)
Stay with our continuing coverage.