JUPITER, Florida—A new McLaren 720 and Ferrari 488 gleam in the sun outside of The Orchids of Asia Day Spa while residents pass by to take selfies and make lewd jokes on Saturday. They have come to see the place where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly paid to receive sex acts from trafficked Chinese women.
Kraft is not the only prominent resident of the area that has been charged in connection to a multi-million dollar human trafficking and prostitution ring operating in Florida. Over 200 arrests have been made and at least 12 businesses shut down as the result of an eight month-long investigation spanning across three counties on Florida’s Treasure Coast. The area is a seasonal playground for many of America’s rich and powerful, and is peppered with million-dollar estates including President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Along with Kraft, criminal charges of soliciting prostitution have been brought against power-players John Childs, the founder of private equity firm J.W. Childs and Associates, as well as John Havens, former CFO of Citigroup. On Friday, Johnny DelPrete, long-time boyfriend of star LPGA golfer Jessica Korda, was also arrested in Stuart, Florida according to Martin County Sheriff’s Office booking records.
Sources told ESPN, “Kraft is not the biggest name involved [in this investigation].” Hobe Sound resident Mike Gloor, who claims he knows some of the men charged, suspects the same. “We’re just waiting for those names” he told The Daily Beast. “I know people in Hobe Sound that are very prominent. This is going to destroy their life.”
Gloor said that it was common knowledge in some circles that massage parlors in the area were functioning as fronts for prostitution. “I personally know people who told me about the ‘Happy ending day spas,’” he said. “We knew it was going on.”
There is a stark contrast between the high-profile men charged in the investigation and women who performed sex acts on them, whom authorities said are trafficking victims.
“These women were sleeping in massage parlors, on the massage tables and had no access to transportation.” Martin County Police Sheriff, William Snyder, said in a press conference.
Vivian Pham, owner of V&V Nails next door to Orchids spa, told The Daily Beast that the women “are all Chinese. None of them speak English. Sometimes, I would see people outside try to talk to them, and they wouldn’t understand.”
It is unclear what lies ahead for the trafficked women, some of whom are not U.S. citizens. They may be eligible to apply for T Visas, a visa specifically designed for victims of human trafficking.
“We’re working with advocacy groups and interpreters and getting as much support for them as we possibly can,” said Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr.
The investigation is far from over, and authorities have said that the suspected trafficking ring may have ties to groups in New York and China. If this were confirmed, the FBI would take on the case. Sheriff Snyder estimated that the ring is part of a $20-million-dollar international operation, and authorities have seized between $2 and $3 million dollars of assets in Florida alone.
Four women have been arrested in Martin County on prostitution charges, including Hua Zhang, the Owner of Orchids of Asia Day Spa. She has been charged with deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution, keeping and frequenting a house of prostitution, and 26 counts of procuring for prostitution. Her bail has been set at $528,000.
As for Kraft and the other men, if they are convicted, a judge could impose up to one year jail time or one year probation. The minimum punishment for a first offense of solicitation of prostitution in Florida is 100 hours community service, a prostitution and human trafficking awareness course, and a fine.
Sheriff Daryl Loar of Indian River County slammed the male patrons.
“These ‘Johns’…were certainly supplying the funds to perpetuate human trafficking,” he said.
Authorities have released hundreds of mugshots and names online. They also have confirmed that they have surveillance footage of the acts allegedly performed on Kraft and others.
Law enforcement officials will soon have to decide whether the men will be charged with sex trafficking in addition to prostitution. Regardless of authorities’ decision, the Johns potential complicity in human trafficking will be weighed in the court of public opinion.