One person is charged in a prostitution sting of two businesses in the Magic City.
According to court filings, the alleged activity dates all the way back to 2014.
This is a case that according to the federal indictment of Scot Petrie, dates all the way back to the summer of 2014.
That's when federal prosecutors say Petrie engaged in coercion and enticement of persons to travel in interstate and foreign commerce to engage in prostitution and other sexual activity.
That's just a fancy way of saying, Petrie is accused of hiring people from out of state, and paying for time and travel to Billings to engage in prostitution.
The documents say the acts took place between two businesses, the documents say that the acts took place between two businesses.
The first at 1117 Central Avenue known as King Spa, and the other at 224 Grand Avenue formerly known as A Spa.
KULR8's Spencer Martin had an opportunity to speak with neighbors about what they saw at the location on Grand.
They wished to not go on camera, but they said the business was very quiet during the day, and most the activity they would see came at night.
We did some checking on property records and found both properties were connected with Suzy Kotts.
She purchased the Central Avenue location in December 2014, and entered in a contract agreement to buy the Grand location in October 2015.
Kotts isn't named in the indictment, and a quick public records search shows that she actually passed away in December 2018. That's roughly three months before neighbors say they saw FBI agents raid the Grand Ave. location.
A neighbor to the A Spa building said after Kotts passed away, she handed the property down to Petrie.
But according to reports in the Duluth News Tribune, Kotts herself had a long history associated with prostitution in Minnesota.
Kotts had prior convictions for prostitution in 1989 and 1991. Kotts also previously operated a business in Duluth.
That business was closed in 2009 because it didn't have a license to operate as a sauna. It was during an interview with investigators at that time, that Kotts admitted to having operated the business for sixteen years with knowledge that women were engaging in prostitution there.
Kotts eventually plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of prostitution and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.
But the Duluth News Tribune says the sentence was suspended as she had moved to Montana.
And to close the book on the connections between Scot Petrie and Suzy Kotts consider this.
A search of the residential histories of Scot Petrie and Suzy Kotts shows three common addresses in three separate states.
-Prior Lake, Minnesota 5505 Candy Cove Trail SE.
-Superior, Wisconsin 104 E 15th St.
-Billings, Montana 1731 King Ave W
We wanted to learn more about the culture of prostitution in Billings. We spoke with Penny Ronning, city council member and co-chair of the Yellowstone County Human Trafficking Task Force.
She said while the women in the court documents aren't listed as human trafficking victims, she believes they are.
She said based on the work they do in the human trafficking task force, they see many times these women are trapped by different circumstances, such as immigration documentation or violent, domestic abuse situations.
"It's really an ill-informed thought to even think that the women inside the women inside these illicit massage businesses are there by choice. That they are empowered females who have an empowering employer. They do not. They have employers that are vicious, and violent and are selling human beings as slaves. That's what they are," said Ronning.
Ronning said Montana ranks fourth per capita in the nation in the problem of human trafficking.
She said Montana is vulnerable to the crime due largely to never having any funding designated to fight human trafficking on a state level.
However right now, a bill was passed in this legislative session allowing law enforcement agencies easier access to illicit massage parlors.
Margaret McDonald sponsored Senate Bill 147 and that bill is awaiting the governor's signature.
Representative Daniel Zolnikov is also working on getting a bill passed revising the laws of human trafficking directly related to massage businesses in Montana.
One change in the bill would allow a law enforcement officer to enter a massage business at any moment during business hours to make sure each massage therapist has their certification displayed for the public or readily available.
You can read the article from the Duluth News Tribune here.