SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Attorney General Josh Hawley took emergency legal action on Thursday to shut down a series of Southwest Missouri businesses connected with human trafficking.
His decision follows Thursday raids across the Springfield region conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the attorney general’s office and other agencies. According to a press release from the attorney general, the raids targeted business that were believed to be connected with illegal trafficking.
Hawley said that Thursday’s raids made good on his promise to find and shut down businesses that conduct human trafficking.
A lawsuit filed in Green County Circuit Court and assisted by the prosecuting attorney’s office, named 16 defendants.
Hawley announced that there would be a crackdown on human trafficking in Missouri this past April along with new regulations under Missouri’s consumer protection laws and the creation of an anti-trafficking unit.
Missouri is the first state in the country to utilize consumer protection laws to fight human trafficking. The anti-trafficking unit participated in the raids on Thursday and the unit is currently investigating other businesses that are allegedly tied with human trafficking.
“To businesses anywhere that engage in trafficking, let the events today serve as a warning for what’s to come,” Hawley said of Thursday’s raids.
Hawley commended the work of all law enforcement involved in the raids, including the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Missouri Attorney General’s office, the Springfield police and other agencies. He especially praised the Missouri Highway Patrol.
“The Missouri Highway Patrol has carried out hundreds of hours of surveillance and devoted thousands of hours more to investigating this crimes,” Hawley said, “Their tenacity, perseverance, and skilled investigative work has saved lives.”
On Friday, Hawley sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against multiple massage parlors that were raided on Thursday. If granted, the TRO will suspend those activities during the pendency of the civil case filed on Thursday.