Twelve men and one woman have been charged with promoting prostitution following a wide-ranging investigation that resulted in the shutdown of 12 brothels in Bellevue and the seizure of two sex-trafficking sites, according to police and prosecutors.
The brothels were operated out of high-end apartment complexes in Bellevue, where prostituted women from South Korea were forced to work often for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, to pay off debts, according to Bellevue Police Chief Steve Mylett.
One of the brothel owners is an alleged member of “The League,” an exclusive group of local sex buyers who were also charged with promoting prostitution after being infiltrated by undercover detectives, he said.
Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said King County is the first jurisdiction in the country to charge “an organized group of sex buyers” with promoting the prostitution of women from South Korea, who are brought to the U.S. to work as prostitutes and are shuttled between major cities.
The joint operation between Bellevue police and the King County Sheriff’s Office led to the seizure Tuesday of website TheReviewboard.net and a sister site called kgirldelights.com, with the “K” standing for Korea, officials announced at a news conference Thursday.
TheReviewboard.net, with an estimated 23,000 members, allowed men to post graphic descriptions of their sexual encounters with prostituted women and share tips to avoid police attention and suspicion from wives and girlfriends, according to charging papers.
“This website facilitated prostitution,” Sheriff John Urquhart said at a news conference.
Sigurd Zitars, 61, is the owner and operator of TheReviewboard.net, according to charging papers. Zitars and a group of 50 of his most prolific posters nationwide established themselves as an exclusive, invitation-only group that called itself “The League,” police and prosecutors say.
All but two of the people arrested Tuesday are alleged local members of The League.