“I don’t believe they were told they were going to work in massage parlors seven days a week, having unprotected sex with up to 1,000 men a year,” said Sheriff William D. Snyder of Martin County, whose office opened the investigation. “We saw them eating on hot plates in the back. There were no washing machines. They were sleeping on the massage tables.”

The women were shuttled from place to place — not only to nearby parlors but also across the state, said Sheriff Snyder. Sheriff’s deputies in Orange County, Fla., became involved in the investigation when women from the state’s Treasure Coast region were traced back to the Orlando area…

Yet making a trafficking case remains difficult, in part because the women who were victims may not want to cooperate with police. Only one has been talking to deputies, Sheriff Snyder said. He had lined up about a dozen Mandarin interpreters, but many other women refused to speak and were let go with an offer of assistance.

“I would never consider them prostitutes — it was really a rescue operation,” the sheriff said, training his anger at the men whose demand for sex kept the massage parlors in business. “The monsters are the men,” he added.