U.S. attorney calls spa a place for modern day slavery


BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - "Its maddening to see this happening in your own community and not have the power to do anything about it," says Richard Rutledge when speaking of Yoshiko Spa in East Birmingham.

The spa was busted by the federal government for allegations of human trafficking and prostitution.  The owner and another employee were indicted by a grand jury. Rutledge says it's disturbing.  "I can't remember it not being here, under some name.  It's been open for well over a decade, and that shouldn't be"

It's not open anymore.  The indictment claims 3 women were persuaded, induced, enticed and coerced to travel in foreign commerce and engage in prostitution.  "It's nothing more than modern day slavery," said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, Joyce White Vance.  "These people are held against their will, forced to perform work that they wouldn't perform in this case it relates to sex."

Vance says it's hard to believe human trafficking goes on in Birmingham.  "People always thought we meant Russian mail-order brides," said Vance.  "The idea that folks exist like that in our neighborhood I think is unthinkable, but we have to confront it, we have to be aware."

For people like Rutledge, and others who live in the area, it's a relief.

"Whoever is responsible from the federal standpoint I want to say thank you," said Rutledge.  "We've been concerned about this facility for a number of years."

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