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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Las Vegas is the end of the road
in the sex slave trade

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
March 20, 2006

The road starts in the jungles of Southeast Asia and ends on Sahara Avenue in the city limits of Las Vegas. The cargo? Young Asian women and children unknowingly spirited away from their families to become sex slaves in the back rooms of Sin City massage parlors or clandestine private residences.

Little is written or said of this enterprise in our "What happens here, stays here" city, but such activity can only happen in a place that's ripe with corruption. Also, little happens in this town without the full consent of our major industry; casinos, and the sex-slave trade is no exception. Sex draws tourists, and the closer it is to the hotels, the better. Casinos want to keep their players close at hand, not traipsing off to the next county.

Just drive west on Sahara Ave., or turn north off Sahara onto Paradise Road to see the final product of this long road of shame: "Massage Parlors" with tantalizing names. Or thumb through the Yellow Pages between page 847 and 962 and you'll find every brand of sexual enticement known to man, but consistently overlooked by local law enforcement and city licensing officials.


Before store front massage parlors flooded the landscape, there were escort services. For a simple phone call, a tourist receives a visit from an attractive young woman who comes directly to his room. This is still a big time draw in Vegas, but usually involves more experienced prostitutes, and takes cooperation from hotel security who control access to elevators going up to the rooms. Many of these "escorts" are newly arrived Russian immigrants.

For the pedophile, there are very young teenage Asian girls reportedly locked in the back rooms of some massage studios and private residences, but they come at a higher price. An excellent investigative report by Glen Meek on residential brothels aired last month on the local ABC affiliate. Access to the store front businesses or private homes require pressing a buzzer to be admitted; the same method used in the legal brothels in neighboring Nye County only forty five minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.

Upon ringing, a manager will come to the door to look you over. Once inside, the visitor is scrutinized to make sure he's not a cop, and is offered a menu. However, because local cops seldom pay attention to these businesses, and the fines are minor compared to the profits, most visitors easily gain admittance. More on this later.

Soon a female is brought in to meet with the patron's approval. From there the negotiations begin. Anything from a simple neck and shoulder rub to oral sex, or full sex is often offered. But the most expensive offering may be an under age girl held against her will in the back room.

For this reason, Las Vegas has become the subject of a study of the horrific problem, and the results are expected to be used to help stop the exploitation of juvenile sex slaves throughout the world.

Many of the massage parlor patrons arrive by cab. The drivers are "tipped" by the proprietor. But in the case of the youngest girls, many work out of leased houses scattered throughout affluent residential neighborhoods. To drive a patron to such a hidden place usually garners the unscrupulous taxi driver much more money than a run to a massage parlor on a main boulevard.

The cabbies communicate by cell phone, and are constantly made aware of when a house has moved to avoid scrutiny.

As a life long Las Vegas resident, I'm often asked if the police, District Attorney, or city business licensing officials ever conduct sting operations on these illicit businesses? My answer is always the same. For years, there's been absolutely no news of any police stings or business license enforcement actions. Its as if the problem does not exist.

"What happens here, stays here?"

How do the youngest victims end up in Las Vegas? Jungle villages in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Viet Nam are visited by scouts who offer a better life to the fathers of young women. Other countries of origin include the Philippines and Dominican Republic.

Having no communication with the outside world, many ignorant fathers accept offers of money for the marriage of there pubescent daughters to these men who promise to take them to the United States to be educated or employed. A marriage is arranged -- usually only legal in the country of origin where young minors can wed older men -- and the child is spirited away on a flight to the US that eventually ends up in Las Vegas. Upon arrival in the US, the child is "educated" in the act of sex.

In Vegas they soon learn their fate when they're forced to live in a room with dozens of other young victims and be available to perform sexual favors for paying adults.

If the young girls try to escape they are told their families will be killed, or they'll be beaten. Often the girls, who do not speak English, are shuffled from one location to another so they cannot build bonds with other victims. Others who refuse to cooperate may end up as "Jane Does" in nearby morgues.

Where is Las Vegas law enforcement? Usually looking the other way, or claiming to be under funded, or saying the problem is over rated.

Making matters worse are these statements by our city's mayor: "There's no prostitution taking place, and if there was, they should arrest them, not  make some big fuss as to what some 18-year-old girl is doing to make a living. " "We're an adult community, an adult playland, let's not pretend to be something we're not. I think anything that's legal should be here."

Meanwhile, City of Las Vegas Director of Business Activity Jim DiFiorie and his bosses on the city council do nothing, while continuing to grant licenses to additional "massage" or escort businesses that usually find safe havens in downtown Wards One or Three located near barrios where few residents are registered to vote. Ward One is represented by Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian. Ward Three is represented by Mayor Pro Tem Gary Reese.

The problem is not exclusive to Las Vegas. In recent years, Atlanta, Georgia was also overrun with Asian massage parlors. The city stopped the problem in its tracks by requiring that masseuses take an eighty hour massage therapy course and be licensed by the state, much the same as cosmetologists, manicurists, and estheticians -- professions that also involve physical contact.

In other words, Las Vegas could do the same as Atlanta and put the parlors under the control of a state board. However this is not the case in Sin City, and there must be a reason.

Again, "What happens here, stays here" says it all, and "Sin City" is exactly what the words imply. The main sin is not gambling as many still think. Its unregulated sex -- the kind that spreads HIV and other STDS.

Amazingly, the old saying "War makes strange bedfellows" plays into this horrible story. The Nye County legal brothels are taking a financial beating from the unregulated sex for sale in nearby LV. The owners of legal brothels are quietly doing their best to inspire enforcement action against the illegal businesses, but seem to be losing the battle. Sought after for donations during political campaigns, the licensed brothels dole out contributions through a hired lobbyist, and innocuous LLCs in the form of bank checks that are reported on campaign finance reports.

On the other hand, massage parlors and escort services dole out their protection money in cash, overpowering the political influence of the licensed brothel owners.

I first covered this story back in 2003, fifteen years after I refused a $10,000 cash bribe from an escort service owner. My AmericanMafia article included a reprint of an excellent Las Vegas SUN story by reporter Timothy Pratt entitled "LV alters tactics in fighting sex-slave trade. Authorities hope to help victims, go after traffickers." Nothing happened after the initial exposés, but my three year old column has finally caught the attention of outside investigators.

When this pathetic story of human exploitation hits the national media, and I hope its soon, the purported leaders of this city should bow their heads in shame.

This is one more example of outside law enforcement having to step in to do the job local law enforcement should have done long ago. For this to occur in a modern American city speaks loudly to what Las Vegas has sadly become -- a part of the Third World.

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