Police say they busted brothel
Three people are arrested at an apartment on Gunn Avenue.
By JONATHAN ABEL, Times Staff Writer
Published January 19, 2008
Luis E. Figueredo, 60, the doorman, was charged with deriving revenue from prostitution.
Concepcion Vicentemorales, 36, of Lehigh Acres, is being kept at the jail without bail on an immigration hold.
Paulina V. DeMarolejo, 50, of Plant City was released Friday.
CLEARWATER - The men parked in the Sears lot next door to the apartment, 20 to 30 customers a day, and dropped by the house when they wanted sex.
They paid the doorman $25, police said, and in exchange received a token.
Police Thursday raided what they said was an active brothel, located in a tan apartment at 314 Gunn Ave.
The brothel catered exclusively to Hispanic men, police said, with mattresses on the floor and a television for pornographic videos. Arrest affidavits described an abundance of used and unused condoms.
Investigators do not believe the brothel operated entirely on its own.
"These are very large organized crime operations that are not just in any one city but are literally all over the state," Clearwater Deputy Police Chief Dewey Williams said Friday.
The women arrested in this brothel were willing workers, not human trafficking victims, but Williams said the organization that police believe ran the establishment may very well use captives, too.
"We are always alert to the possibility that there may be a human trafficking victim there or that this brothel is part of a human trafficking operation," Williams said. "They mix in women who voluntarily do this for a living with human trafficking victims."
Trafficking in people is not the same as smuggling them. Smugglers are typically paid to take people illegally across international borders, leaving them alone once they do so.
Traffickers, on the other hand, may transport people across borders, but they generate their profits through exploitation, coercing their victims into slavery, involuntary servitude or the commercial sex industry.
After drug-dealing, human trafficking is tied with illegal arms sales as the second-largest criminal industry in the world, authorities say. Florida ranks as the No. 2 destination for trafficking victims, behind California, with both states being home to large immigrant populations.
Williams said it was not clear exactly which organization was running this brothel. But he believed the women were rotated among various brothels every week or so.
Police charged Luis E. Figueredo, 60, with deriving revenue from prostitution. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail without bail Friday because of an immigration hold.
Figueredo served as the doorman, taking the $25 entrance fee, according to an arrest affidavit. He admitted to police that he kept $10 for himself and paid $12 upstream to the organization running the operation, which covered his room and board.
The women arrested on prostitution charges were Concepcion Vicentemorales, 36, of Lehigh Acres, who is being kept at the jail without bail on an immigration hold, and Paulina V. DeMarolejo, 50, of Plant City who was released Friday.
Vicentemorales committed two sex acts for money on the day of the raid, according to an arrest affidavit.
Human trafficking has increasingly become a problem in Clearwater, Williams said.
In October 2006, the department won a $450,000 federal grant to create a local task force devoted to rescuing victims of human trafficking and arresting their smugglers.
Two human trafficking victims have been rescued so far from prostitution - two others have been rescued who weren't involved in the sex trade.
Williams said this is the seventh such brothel broken up by police since 2005, including one in May 2006 at 2095 Camellia Drive. That brothel on Camellia Drive was part of the same building complex as the house raided on Thursday.
Neighbors said they were not surprised when the police showed up.
"Yeah, they've done it again," Mary Manual remembers saying. "It's the second time."
Police said such brothels are commonly found in rental apartments in immigrant neighborhoods. One obvious sign is lots of male visitors in the afternoon and evening.
Jonathan Abel can be reached at email@example.com or 727 445-4157.
How to help
Anyone with information on local brothels is asked to call the Clearwater Area Task Force on Human Trafficking tip line at (727) 562-4917.
[Last modified January 18, 2008, 21:45:17]
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