Police announced Tuesday they had broken up a suspected human trafficking ring that was allegedly bringing women to Israel from Eastern Europe to work as prostitutes in eight brothels around the country.
The investigation, which began in June, led to the arrest of 12 people, including a woman, referred to as a “Madame,” who is suspected of running the brothel network in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Ashkelon, and bringing women to Israel.
Her husband and son were also arrested, and eight women suspected of working as prostitutes were detained.
Prostitution is legal in Israel, but pimping, running brothels, and trafficking are prohibited. Police did not say why the eight women were held.
Police said they uncovered the network after a months-long investigation.
The suspects are accused of bringing women from Ukraine and Georgia by posting on local job-seekers websites. Women who left their details and were deemed suitable were offered work in Israel.
“Madame” would allegedly send a contact to meet the women and bring them back to Israel, police said. When the women arrived in Israel they were met by the woman’s husband or her son and transferred to one of the brothels.
Police suspect “Madame” ran the scheme with her husband and it was he who managed the finances. Additionally, her son and several other suspects allegedly rented and maintained the apartments where the prostitutes worked and ferried the women from one brothel to another.
Early Tuesday morning police raided apartments in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Ashkelon that were used as brothels, and found large amounts of cash, cell phones, passports, and other documents.
They also raided the home of the main suspect and her husband. The suspects were not named.
The suspects were scheduled to be arraigned in the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Tuesday.