Why did Sebastian and Vero Beach police wait 6 months in massage spa sting?

Massage spa raid in Sebastian and Vero Beach, Florida.
Massage spa raid in Sebastian and Vero Beach, Florida.

SEBASTIAN – Everywhere you go in Sebastian, people are still talking about the prostitution busts at various massage parlors and spas. There have been several arrests involving locals on charges of soliciting prostitution.

Some of the arrestees and their defense attorneys have raised many questions about the prostitution sting. Such as:

  • Why did the police allow the girls to be in danger during the six-month investigation?
  • Why didn’t the police stop the human and sex trafficking operation once they knew it was occurring?
  • Why didn’t Robert Kraft have to turn himself in and get his mugshot taken like the rest of the people?

For some answers, we reached out to Indian River County Sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Eric Flowers.

“They were being forced into prostitution for sure. If we kicked in the door the first day, we have no evidence of anything. Victims of human trafficking rarely ever speak up. We wouldn’t have info on how the organizations work, who is involved, etc. It is our job to get good evidence to make a case,” Flowers told Sebastian Daily.

Flowers said that knowing that they knew, it took hours of interviews with the women before they would admit (for those that even did) that they were victims of human trafficking.

“If you read up on human trafficking, you will see that it’s similar to Stockholm syndrome. The victims believe their captors are the only ones who will care for them. It’s not just physical abuse but also mental,” said Flowers.

“I believe every woman involved is a victim of human trafficking. Unfortunately, as they move up in the organization, they get more responsibility and cause others to become victims which is why they were charged. At some point, even the women running it were once victims of human trafficking themselves,” Flowers added.

Stockholm syndrome happens when victims are placed in a situation where they “feel intense fear of physical harm and believe all control is in the hands of their tormentor,” according to ThoughtCo.com.

“The psychological response follows after a period of time and is a survival strategy for the victims. It includes sympathy and support for their captor’s plight and may even manifest in negative feelings toward officers who are trying to help the victims,” said Charles Montaldo, a former licensed private detective who worked with law enforcement and insurance firms investigating crime and fraud.

Montaldo says situations in which the victims have displayed this kind of response have included hostage situations, long-term kidnappings, members of cults, prisoners of concentration camps, battered spouses, incest victims, abused children, prostitutes, and more.

What’s clear is when people exhibit Stockholm syndrome, they become protective of their captors, even to the point of foiling the police efforts at their rescue.

The name “Stockholm syndrome” was derived from a 1973 bank robbery (Kreditbanken) in Stockholm, Sweden, where four hostages were held for six days. During their imprisonment and while in harm’s way, each hostage seemed to defend the actions of the robbers.

For this reason, law enforcement collected evidence instead of breaking down the doors at the massage spas. Most of the women being held captive in the human and sex trafficking ring did not cooperate with law enforcement. However, in the end, law enforcement got the evidence they needed to charge their captors.

There are a lot of famous cases that involve Stockholm syndrome that include Patty Hearst, Jaycee Lee Dugard, Natascha Kampusch, and Elizabeth Smart.

Also going around town is the rumor that the billionaires don’t have to turn themselves in or get their mugshots taken. Robert Kraft and billionaire investor John W. Childs are part of these rumors.

“John Childs will have to be booked. He hasn’t been arrested on his warrant yet,” said Flowers. “Kraft got a summons because Jupiter is in a different judicial circuit and they chose to issue a summons rather than a warrant. That’s a state attorney decision,” Flowers added.

DISCLAIMER: Arrests and mugshots were made public by complaint affidavits, arrest affidavits, and police reports. All persons arrested are innocent until proven guilty.

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges grew up in Jupiter, Florida where he began his career in radio and TV broadcasting for over 12 years. He would make a career change to computer programming. Andy spent seven years working for tech companies in Atlanta before moving to Indian River County in 2002. He returned to the news sector in 2005 as a writer. Andy joined Sebastian Daily in 2016 as our editor in chief.