Judge dissolves injunction used to seize assets of massage parlor owners suspected of human trafficking

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Business owners accused of using their massage parlors as a front for human trafficking are fighting for their assets in court. In April, Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a temporary restraining order to shut down their locations in Huntsville and Decatur, seize all of their money and property.

On Friday, Madison County Circuit Court Judge Alison Austin made the decision to dissolve the preliminary injunction filed by AG Marshall against Ty Green's Massage Therapy, Inc.

Because of a law passed in 2018, the Attorney General was able to do all of this without filing any criminal charges, but Judge Austin felt the state had not exhausted all other avenues before issuing the temporary restraining order.

Court documents showed the judge viewed the State of Alabama’s petition for injunctive relief in light of the following requirements recognized by the Alabama Supreme Court:

"A preliminary injunction should be issued only when the party seeking an injunction demonstrates (1) that without the injunction the [party] would suffer irreparable injury; (2) that the [party] has no adequate remedy at law; (3) that the [party] has at least a reasonable chance of success on the merits of his case; and (4) that the hardship imposed on the [party opposing the preliminary injunction] by the injunction would not unreasonably outweigh the benefit accruing to the [party seeking the injunction].”

HB305 was signed into law in 2018 and human trafficking victim advocates say it's a tool to send a message to traffickers.

"When it comes to human trafficking crimes, the victims are always our focus. We want to make sure that their health, their safety, and their welfare is taken care of," said David Pinkleton with the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force

He says HB 305 could help make sure of that.

The human trafficking law says "If the Attorney General has reason to believe that any person, corporation, or any other legal entity is engaging in, or is about to engage in any act or practice declared to be unlawful by this article, the Attorney General may bring action." This includes "Restrain by temporary restraining order, or permanent injunction."

The law allows the Attorney General to bring civil action on behalf of the state to recover damages for victims.

"I think this is an opportunity to again just let the traffickers know Alabama is not open for business and if you're engaging in human trafficking in any form we are going to come after you and we'll be willing to basically seize your assets," Pinkleton said.

Pinkleton also says when it comes to getting restitution in a case - sometimes the civil route is a better way to go.

"There's typically a lower burden of proof when it comes to a civil action versus a criminal action matter," he said.

The Attorney General invoked HB 305 and was granted a temporary restraining order to shut down TY Green's Massage Therapy Inc.'s businesses in Huntsville and Decatur in April. That restraining order was extended this week and is expiring Friday at 5:00 PM.

The owners of TY Green's Massage Therapy Inc. have not been charged with a crime. At this time they are only facing civil action.

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