Southern California is a hub for human trafficking, indentured servitude and other criminal ventures involving forced employment and sexual coercion. Illegal immigrants are a particularly vulnerable population, and victims, fearing deportation, often endure patently illegal work conditions.
A recent raid at a downtown Los Angeles "hostess club" may offer a glimpse into some of these operations, police say. Last week three dozen officers showed up at Club 907 with a warrant to scrutinize the venue's records — and to swab the seats for semen samples. Eighty-one women were arrested, mostly illegal immigrants who were charged with using counterfeit identities. Seven men also were arrested, including the manager, who was charged with conspiracy to commit prostitution, police said. On the surface, it looks like a standard-issue vice raid. But details of the working conditions at Club 907 suggest that the women may not be the perpetrators, but the victims of a crime.
Patrons of Club 907 pay $30 an hour to talk, dance and drink nonalcoholic beverages with the 160 women who work there. Hostess clubs are legal, but are not permitted to offer adult entertainment such as nudity or stripping, so when officers witnessed sexual activity during a routine inspection in July, Los Angeles police began an investigation.