WMBF News hidden camera investigation leads to prostitution arrests
DILLON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A Dillon County prostitution sting has landed three women in jail, one of them twice.
The investigation began last fall after an anonymous tip led WMBF News to human and sex trafficking happening inside a Dillon County building. WMBF News went inside with a hidden camera.
Whether you live in Dillon County, or are just passing along I-95 to your destination, you've probably seen a familiar landmark or two.
WMBF News is unveiling a less familiar perspective, through the lens of an undercover camera, at a place on Highway 301 known as Osaka Spa.
The employee offers an hour-long massage, and that's not all.
Osaka Employee: "Now, what?"
WMBF Employee: "Hmm?"
Osaka Employee: "Now, what?"
WMBF Employee: "What do you want to do?"
Osaka Employee: "You pay more you get more, you know that."
It's dark in the room, and our photographer was facing downward, unable to see much, but in our video it appears the employee was nude.
The undercover camera appears to show the female employee putting on her bra and underwear after the massage.
WMBF News anchor Michael Maely met with the Dillon County Sheriff's Office to bring this to the sheriff's attention.
The video was shown to Dillon County Sheriff's Office Captain Cliff Arnette earlier in 2015.
"If something is going on, or even if nudity is going on, is it something that you would be concerned with?" Michael asked.
"Oh absolutely, we are very concerned about any crime that's occurring in Dillon County," said Captain Cliff Arnette with the DCSO.
"One thing that gives me a little concern about the money talking and the more money you bring the more you may get or will get? That's a little concerning there," said Arnette.
And while our anonymous tipster suggested at least one woman was here against her will, another woman doesn't appear to be.
WMBF Employee: "Do you have fun doing this?"
OSAKA Employee #2: "Sometimes"
WMBF Employee: "Why do you do this?"
OSAKA Employee #2: "Why not?"
"Certainly from viewing and seeing the video, I believe there may be some criminal activity, based on what I've seen. And with that being said, we're definitely concerned about this and we're certainly going to look into it," said Arnette.
Over the course of several months, authorities form the Dillon County Sheriff's office teamed up with Dillon Police, the Marion County Sheriff's Office and SLED, going undercover, searching for possible signs of human and sex trafficking.
In one sting, officials arrested 63-year-old Chong Williams for prostitution.
A WMBF News photographer recognized her as the same person who gave him the massage. Authorities arrested Williams again just over a month later for the same offense, along with two others, 51-year-old Chin Son An, and 66-year-old Jong Adams.
The trio has been charged with prostitution, all from out-of-state.
"Once you brought that to my attention, I mentioned it to Sheriff Hulon and he was very concerned," Arnette admitted.
Michael asked the captain if he was surprised agents found prostitution because it seemed possibly suspicious.
"With the information coming out of your news agency, I felt like we may come out of there with some prostitution, going on in that business," Arnette answered.
"And we appreciate that information and if you get any other information like that, please let us know and we thank you for what you provided," he added.
Captain Arnette said the business has been closed for several weeks, and while police did not find signs of human or sex trafficking, they like the message of the investigation.
"Prostitution leads to other crimes as well and with that being said, we're making a statement here in Dillon County that we're not going to tolerate prostitution," Arnette said.
And for now, Arnette said he hopes this story encourages others to come forward if they have a tip.
"We made four arrests; therefore, we're looking at that business and any other business that may be promoting or that kind of illegal activity," said Arnette.
The penalty is pending for the three women, arrested for prostitution, one of them arrested twice.
WMBF News has tried to contact anyone associated with the business, which has been registered with the state, since 2010.
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