NewsLocal News


San Diego's tourism also attracts the sex trade, pop-up brothels

Posted at 6:48 AM, Nov 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-23 16:58:07-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — It's easier than ever to find a place to rent on a short-term basis, anywhere in the world.

But this relatively new business model has touched off a whole new way of doing business for another industry: the sex trade.

Law enforcement globally is reporting a rise in pop-up brothels. San Diego's Sex Trafficking Task Force calls it a form of modern-day slavery now hiding in plain sight.

RELATED: Lawsuit: Contaminated stem cells from San Diego company severely sickened UFC fighter

"Doing Money" is a fact-based TV Drama, which premiered at the San Diego Film Festival last month. It's bringing this issue out into the light. It tells the shocking true story of a young woman named Ana who spent nine months as a sex slave in a series of pop-up brothels in Ireland. Ana was snatched off the streets of London in broad daylight.

According to statistics, that's rare. But what happened to Ana once she was in the hands of the sex traffickers, was not.

"Doing Money" producer Mike Dormer spoke to 10News anchor Kimberly Hunt, describing the horror Ana endured.

RELATED: New CA Medical Board filing on Del Mar doctor accused of prowling

"Within 12 hours she was in Ireland in a brothel," Dormer said.

Dormer says Ana, and all those like her, are entrapped physically and mentally.

"Once they've been moved ... they have no friends, no money, no clothes, no passport, no way to escape," Dormer describes.

Much like Ana’s reality overseas, U.S. Department of Justice reports reveal the victims are often kept cold, sedated with drugs, and hungry. If they don't meet their quota, they don't eat. Girls are moved by the pimps from one short-term rental to another to both evade being caught by law enforcement and to keep the girls advertised as new in town.

It's happening in San Diego...

The global issue of pop-up brothels is alive and well in San Diego. Deputy District Attorney Carolyn Matzger, of the San Diego Sex Trafficking Task Force, confirms it's happening locally. Last year alone in San Diego, human trafficking was an $810-million industry.

"We have it going on in massage parlors, hotels ... and we also have it going on in short-term vacation rentals, apartments, condos, and homes," Matzger said.

The task force has busted a pop-up brothel operating out of an upscale condo in Mission Valley. Two people were convicted of pimping and pandering and an adult was rescued. She had been trafficked to San Diego from the east coast through Los Angeles. The heads of the operation were prosecuted in Orange County.

RELATED: SD whistleblower reveals threat of gun reporting 'loophole' for mentally ill service members

A member of the task force who was there for the take down says it was run by professionals.

"It was a fairly sophisticated criminal organization. They had two people inside running the computers and security portion of it," the member said. We are not identifying the task force member. "They had a call center, they would give the johns a code to enter the building."

He says it all starts on the internet where the girls are advertised for sex. After a john schedules a hook up, he'll get the location.

"They'll get directed to go to a brothel whether that's a condo or an Airbnb," the task force member says.

RELATED: City may weigh 'vacancy tax' targeting empty homes

Unlike guns and drugs which can only be sold once, a person can be sold over and over again. Matzger says the girls are expected to bring in the bucks.

"Ten times a day. Ten times a night. They work all night long," Matzger says.

And they're isolated and totally under the fist of her traffickers

"She's dependent on them for where she sleeps, what she eats, when she eats, and when she sleeps. That's what we see here in San Diego," Matzger adds.

RELATED: La Jolla party house scene of violent attack, mother says

Matzger says the traffickers demand the girls understand who they belong to.

Taking on traffickers...

Ana testified against her traffickers in the United Kingdom. They were convicted and sentenced to three years.

Her testimony helped secure the passing of the first Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act in the U.K in over a hundred years. Experts say we have a long way to go and statistics back that up. Worldwide, almost five million women and girls endured forced sexual exploitation last year.

In San Diego, the Sex Trafficking Task Force — a combination of positions from members of the DOJ, the San Diego District Attorney's Office, and San Diego Police Department — has created an aggressive front taking on sex trafficking in a county that attracts it because of tourism.

Matzger says, "large gatherings such as Comic-Con, sporting events, and other venues that attract tourists ... also attract those looking to buy sex."