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4 north Alabama massage businesses barred from operating

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Several north Alabama massage businesses are barred from operating after authorities said they uncovered evidence that they were actually “fronts for a human-trafficking operation.”

Attorney General Steve Marshall said Friday he had received a temporary restraining order against TY Green’s Massage Therapy, Inc., its owner Yuping Tang, and manager Jiao Liu, who is her daughter, and their four businesses. The businesses operate in Huntsville under the names Health Massage and Massage Foot Care, and in Madison and Decatur under the name Massage Foot Care.

The company’s assets are frozen pending further court action.

In his legal complaint, Marshall told the court “the ’employees’ work incredibly long hours during which at least some of them are expected to engage in sex acts with the businesses’ customers. When the victims are not ‘working,’ they seem to have little freedom of movement, they are transported in groups to and from the Defendants’ businesses and are kept in houses owned by the Defendants where they are left to eat and sleep in terrible conditions. The Defendants, on the other hand, have reaped millions of dollars in revenue from their businesses, and the Attorney General now brings this action in order to put an end to their conduct and protect their victims from further harm.”

Marshall’s office said it’s the first civil action taken under the state’s new human trafficking laws. The complaint also alleges violations of Alabama’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“Alabama’s new law provides a valuable tool to more effectively fight human traffickers and restore dignity and freedom to their victims,” Marshall said in a news release. “With this civil action, we were able to respond to the dire urgency of the situation, shut down the trafficking operation, rescue the victims, and preserve assets that can be used to help those who have been harmed.”

In addition to financial accounts, the defendants’ business premises and residences have been seized. Marshall has asked the court to permanently shut down the defendants’ alleged human-trafficking network and grant monetary damages as restitution for its victims, all of Chinese nationality.

Marshall did not indicate how many alleged victims are involved with the case.

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