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MORRISTOWN (WATE) – Hamblen County officials say a much-frequented brothel operating out of two homes on Springvale Road and McClister Road has been shut down.
Sheriff Esco Jarnigan said women were being brought in from Mexico and forced into prostitution.
The investigation has now become a federal case because investigators believe the brothel is connected to a national human trafficking operation.
Sheriff Jarnigan says the people running the brothels nationwide threatened to harm the women's families in Mexico if they didn't cooperate.
He says the ladies would not stay in one place for very long. They were being shuttled from state to state.
"So they would not get comfortable with one location, make friends and try to escape. They didn't leave them to get comfortable, transferring them out every two to three weeks to a different location. They were constantly on the move," Sheriff Jarnigan said.
He says the sheriff's office was tipped off about the operation several months ago. Undercover detectives went in and discovered what was going on.
"It was very popular," Sheriff Jarnigan said.
Gail Vaughn and her husband live across the street from the brothel property. "Different vehicles would come in and out, three or four at a time," Vaughn said.
Vaughn says the people who stopped by the place, "would drive newer-model cars, sports cars. The men were well dressed, very well dressed," described Vaughn.
"The prices varied depending on who was in-charge of the women," said Sheriff Jarnigan.
The three people thought to be running the Hamblen County brothel are Rubio Narciso, Rosa Menendez and Raymundo Torres.
They face federal charges and could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted, according to the sheriff.
Six more people from outside Hamblen County are also facing federal charges in the case. The sheriff says most of them were in the country illegally.
"The sad thing is the victimization of these females. They thought they were coming here to better their life. As bad as it was in Mexico, it was worse when they got here," said Jarnigan.
He says the women involved will likely be sent back to Mexico once they've been questioned in the case.