Seven women were led away in handcuffs and leg-shackles as raid teams swarmed into three separate massage parlors along FM 1960 near Ella in northwest Harris County Thursday.
Three women were arrested at a parlor called "Royal." Four other women, including an older woman suspected of running the business, were arrested a few doors down at a club called "Royal" which displayed a neon sign that proclaimed "massage."
"None of these massage parlors have a license to either operate a massage and neither do the girls," said Harris County Sheriff's Office Sgt. T. E. Kiser. "These are run by criminal organizations."
Before the Thursday afternoon raid, undercover deputies went into all three parlors to broker deals for sex in the clubs. At the third club, known as "Crystal Massage," deputies said the going rate was $160 for sex with one of the prostitutes on duty.
"Dark lit rooms ... homemade massage tables made out of two by fours and they put a pad down and they put a towel down on that," said Kiser, who added that condoms were found and some of the massage parlors had showers where women would bathe their customers before sex.
Deputies said some of the seven women who were arrested for prostitution had airline tickets that showed they would work prostitution jobs in Chicago and then Houston and then Los Angeles, all within a few week time-span.
"We've done prostitution cases at these places before, and as you see, they're back open again," Kiser said, adding that it is frustrating for law enforcement, which continues to receive complaints about the businesses from neighbors and surrounding businesses.
A Spring Independent School District bus dropped off two preschool-aged children at a day care during the raid. That day care is sandwiched between two of the parlors that were raided.
Along with the arrests, Thursday's raid team included fire marshal's investigators since police said some women were living in the businesses for weeks at a time, which violates fire codes. The Harris County Attorney's office was also involved in the raid, putting the owner of the shopping center on notice that, since he continues to rent to suspected houses of prostitution, his entire land could be closed down as a public nuisance.
Kiser said the businesses typically pay their rent in cash, and they often pay higher monthly rents than their next-door, legitimate neighbors.
"The owner of the shopping center has to answer for this also. That's where the county attorney is coming in," said Kiser.
The shopping center's name is "The Classic Station" near FM 1960 and Red Oak.
Deputies from the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's office also took part in the raid.
Kiser said two women at the "Crystal Massage" business avoided trips to jail, but were issued tickets for giving massages without the required state licenses.
He said women are usually reluctant to give up information about their employers or any details of the business, but Kiser promised to keep the pressure on those behind the prostitution parlors, using several legal avenues.
"It's just a matter of time. It takes time, but once we get it, we're going to track them down. We got to," he said.