A downtown Portland strip club was searched by the FBI Wednesday, in connection with a child sex trafficking investigation.
Agents with the Portland FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, along with officers from the Portland Police Bureau’s Entertainment Detail, served a search warrant at Club Rouge on Southwest 4th Avenue and Stark Street.
The investigation began in September 2015, when a teenage girl posted online ads for prostitution. Officers set up an undercover date and identified her.
Then recently, they developed information that the same underage girl was dancing at Club Rouge.
Any commercial sex act under the age of 18 is considering trafficking.
But managers at Club Rouge told FOX 12 they didn’t know the girl was underage.
“This particular entertainer used a family member’s ID to access the club under a different alias portraying she was over the age of 18,” said manager Justin Muraviob.
He said the girl in question is no longer employed there and the club cooperated fully with the investigation.
“We don’t condone any sort of sex trafficking,” Muraviob said. “That’s not at all what our business is here.”
Beaverton Police Detective Chad Opitz is part of the FBI task force. He said Portland is a known hotspot for human trafficking, and there is a huge overlap between adult entertainment and the sex trade.
“Some of the girls I’ve talked to, the minors that have been associated at strip clubs have said they’d rather work at strip clubs than be involved in trafficking or do prostitution dates,” Opitz told FOX 12.
But, he warned, there’s a very fine line that divides them.
“It’s no secret that pimps and traffickers will go to strip clubs to try to find girls to traffic and to promote or compel into prostitution,” he added. “So they’re just putting themselves around the certain people that we’re trying to keep them away from.”
Advocate Nita Belles agrees.
She’s been fighting trafficking in Oregon for the last 10 years, and hopes more clubs will put “freedom stickers” inside bathroom stalls, giving potential victims a lifeline they may not get anywhere else.
Oregon House Bill 3143, passed last year, mandates that such stickers go out with every liquor license renewal. The stickers include a phone number and text line for victims to get help.
“Human trafficking happens in every zip code in the united states,” Belles said. “If there’s internet, there’s human trafficking.”
To report human trafficking, call 888-373-788 or text “BeFree” to 233733.
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