TAMPA — Detectives arrested seven people, seized $750,000 in cash and luxury vehicles, and broke up a prostitution ring operating from at least 12 local massage parlors, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
The investigation involved four Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Chronister said at a news conference Thursday.
James Smith, 51, and Nan Smith, 41, a married couple with a 5-year-old child, were the operators of the ring, Chronister said. Also arrested were two managers and three employees, whose names he did not release.
Chronister did not release the exact locations of the massage parlors but said eight were in Pinellas County and another four were in Hillsborough. The couple also had plans to open two new parlors before they were arrested Wednesday, he said.
The operation began in September 2020 and ended Wednesday after search warrants were served at all 12 locations. Women who worked in the parlors received only tips, he said, while the Smiths and managers kept a majority of the profit.
Condoms and lingerie were among the items recovered.
“That’s never found in a reputable massage parlor,” Chronister said.
Detectives made the seven arrests and seized more than $750,000 in cash and assets, including luxury cars that were purchased with profits from the prostitution ring, Chronister said.
Over the course of their operation, Chronister estimated that the Smiths earned millions, while many of their workers were allegedly forced to sleep at the parlors to maximize profits.
The sheriff said the women exploited through the prostitution ring were at least 18.
The Smiths face charges of racketeering, money laundering and deriving support from prostitution. Their child was taken into protective custody.
“They ran it like a franchise, recruiting women from around the country,” Chronister said.