While most neighbors said they were shocked, it took Carl Whiteside just two guesses to nail what authorities say was happening within a modest south Sacramento home.
Whiteside said he figured either drugs or women were drawing the men he saw arriving at the house in expensive cars.
His second guess was the correct one, according to the state attorney general's office, which announced Friday that four people were arrested late Thursday on suspicion of pimping young women at homes in Sacramento and San Mateo counties.
Four south Sacramento addresses three homes and a Florin Road day spa were searched Thursday in connection with the alleged sex trafficking ring, authorities said.
Whiteside owns a rental property near one of the homes searched.
Behind the steel fence of the home near Whiteside, at 2421 52nd Ave., the front yard appeared to be in the middle of a makeover Friday. A koi pond was empty, a shovel leaned against one of six freshly planted palm trees, and a Japanese maple and several other plants sat in pots.
Whiteside said Mercedes, Lexus and Jaguar automobiles would show up at the house, often during the lunch hour, stay for 20 minutes, then leave. "When I started seeing the high-class cars, that is when I started connecting the dots," said Whiteside.
His hunch was so strong he left a message a few months back on the Sacramento Police Department tip line. It's unclear whether his tip affected the investigation.
"I knew something was up," said Whiteside.
California Department of Justice agents arrested three people in Sacramento and one in San Mateo, accusing them of operating brothels and pimping women. Those arrested were Xiu Juan Bai, 43, Ken Wong, 58, and Yoon Chin, 55, all of Sacramento County, and Zhi Liu, 49, of San Mateo County.
The arrests came after a five-month investigation of a suspected prostitution ring that brought women from Boston and New York to Northern California. Once in California, the women were rotated between brothels on an organized schedule, according to the attorney general's press release.
Authorities would not say whether the women were paid a wage, whether they were U.S. citizens or whether more arrests were likely.
The arrests were made Thursday night by Department of Justice Bureau of Investigation agents with assistance from the Sacramento Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The four addresses searched were: 7030 Indian Lane, 4241 Florin Road No. 50, 2421 52nd Ave. and 7901 Rockhurst Way. Additional sites were searched in San Mateo County.
The Florin Road address is the site of Super 8 Spa. The spa seemed to be open for business Friday. A woman with a strong Asian accent answered the phone offering a back or foot massage. After the caller identified himself as a reporter, the receptionist professed a lack of English language skills.
Linda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, would not say whether sexual acts took place at all four of the addresses searched in Sacramento.
Neighbors of the Indian Lane residence, described by authorities as the operation's headquarters, said they had no idea.
"All we saw was lights on in the house 24 hours a day," said neighbor Grace Vang, who was suddenly questioning the safety of her neighborhood.
She and other neighbors said the main thing that stood out about the stucco, two-story house was the garage door frequently being open and a car being rebuilt inside. A few car body parts lay near trash cans Friday. The lawn had turned brown. And a stack of mattresses piled on their sides could be seen through a second-story window.
Tiashall Michell, who lives behind the Indian Lane residence, said she never saw young women outside and that the blinds were always closed.
"I don't know what to say," Michell said. "I never saw anyone in the yard."
Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @newsfletch.