Five owners and operators were arrested and the massage parlors were shuttered last week in the raids in Seattle's Chinatown-International District and Beacon Hill neighborhoods.
A small neon sign. Grimy windows blacked out with heavy fabric. In Januarya woman whose daughter lived in the apartment building noticed a male-only clientele visiting the storefront, mostly at night. The complaint she sent to police set in motion a vast prostitution and money-laundering investigation, tying massage parlors and spas in Seattle to a sophisticated criminal network that brings Chinese women into the U. Twenty-six Chinese women, many of them new arrivals who spoke little or no English, were removed from the parlors, where they lived and worked in squalid, dingy conditions.
King County prosecutors have since charged two men and three women with money laundering and three to six counts each of second-degree promoting prostitution. A fourth woman, believed to have returned to China inwas also charged but remains at large. Two of the suspects posted bail and were required to turn over their passports, according to prosecutors. Like the women recovered from the parlors, all of the suspects are Chinese or Chinese-American, Umporowicz said.
The women, in their late 20s to early 60s, worked six or seven days a week, often for 14 or more hours a day, according to police and charging papers. At least one woman disclosed being sexually assaulted by customers and another said she had been robbed; others reported being slapped and verbally abused, the charges say.
From the beginning, the focus of the investigation was on targeting the people responsible for exploiting and profiting from the Chinese women being brought into the country to staff the parlors, and not on the men who patronize them, Nollette and Umporowicz said.
The fact six suspects were actually charged is a victory. We put property owners on notice that criminal activity was happening in their rental buildings and we rescued 26 women.
This closed massage parlor at 15th Ave. But investigating the owners and operators of the Chinese-run massage parlors required different tactics, due to language and cultural barriers. He did, however, send in detectives to pose as customers — and women agreed to perform sex acts at all the targeted spas and parlors.
In each instance, the charges say, the detective used a ruse and walked out before any sex acts were performed. The Beacon Hill storefront at 15 th Ave. When detectives started watching the business, they spotted an Asian man driving a van between it and a second massage parlor, the now-closed Touch of Class Spa, at Fourth Ave.
From there, detectives used electricity bills, credit-card and bank records, phone and property records and a variety of surveillance techniques to identify Xinzhong, uncover the other targets and build cases against them, the charges show. The four cities also have problems with illlicit massage parlors, he said. He and his detectives also uncovered links to Flushing, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens that is also home to a large Chinese population. Many employ middle-aged women working to pay off debts incurred in their native countries, the newspaper reported.
Many of the women coming into the U. Employment agencies in the L. During the investigation, detectives used GPS trackers, surveillance cameras and mobile surveillance teams that followed spa operators as they picked up and dropped off women at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and shuttled them between different massage parlors, the charges say. But in addition to rent, the women are required to repay the costs of bringing them to the U.
The men seen frequenting the parlors while they were under surveillance came from all walks of life, including doctors, engineers and tech workers, Umporowicz said. There are a lot of people like me, people my age and my race. As teams were fanning out to arrest the five suspects in Seattle, Lynnwood and Kent on Feb. When the briefing was over, Lt. Jim Fitzgerald, the operation commander, headed to a church in West Seattle.
But it was up to the women to decide whether to accept help — for instance, finding a place to stay, getting a ride somewhere or engaging in more intensive case management — or simply to go on their way. He arrived expecting chaos.She was 49, a recent immigrant and deeply in debt to a loan shark back home in China when she answered an employment ad three years ago that promised thousands of dollars a month, but offered no job description.
She realized too late that she had been tricked into working at a massage parlor in Flushing, Queens, where besides kneading backs, she was expected to sexually service up to a dozen men a day. In strip malls across the country, neon signs and brightly colored placards promise hot stones, acupuncture and shiatsu with photos of women or couples receiving relaxing shoulder rubs. But a traditionally Asian form of therapeutic relaxation with deep roots in big-city Chinatowns has spun off a different kind of massage parlor that has little to do with traditional remedies.
The frequently middle-aged women who work in parlors with names like Orchids of Asia and Rainbow Spa are often struggling to pay off high debts to family members, loan sharks, labor traffickers and lawyers who help them file phony asylum claims. In some cases, their passports are taken and their illegal immigration status keeps them further in the shadows, with some of them rotated every 10 days to two weeks between spas operated by the same owners.
Forced to pay for their own supplies and even their own condoms, many women must sleep on the same massage tables where they service customers and cook on hot plates in cramped kitchens or on back steps. The recent arrest warrant filed against Robert K. Across the region, parlors were empty and many frequent clients were phoning their lawyers, wondering if more warrants were going to drop.
Law enforcement officials said there were an estimated 9, illicit massage parlors across the country, from Orlando to Los Angeles. The epicenter of this national underground is the bustling Chinatown in Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens. Women are recruited locally through ads in Chinese-language newspapers or over the social network WeChat. Their real money — and chance at a better life — comes in the form of tips, which they are encouraged or forced to amplify through illegal means.
A year-old former massage worker from Taiwan, who agreed to be identified only by the nickname she commonly uses, Tina, said she was lured into working at a massage parlor in New York a decade ago by the travel agency broker who helped secure her visa to travel to the United States.
She was arrested several times before getting out of the business, and feels comparatively lucky. One close friend was spirited to Texas by traffickers, she said, had her passport taken and was forced to see eight to 12 customers a day. One day the tearful calls she often received from her friend came to an abrupt halt.
The ubiquity of the massage parlors offers an accessibility and sheen of normalcy not offered by traditional brothels. And as the massage parlors have expanded even into small-town America in recent years, meticulously detailed review sites like Rubmaps have served as the Yelp and Foursquare of the illicit parlor business, with graphic anatomical descriptions of the women and explicit breakdowns of the sexual services proffered.
Even at illicit parlors, owners and managers can claim ignorance of the additional services offered by employees behind closed doors. The evidence gathered during raids and searches often tells a far different tale.
A federal law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because this person is involved in active cases, said that the most common method for smuggling women from Asian countries was either a fraudulent tourist visa or a fraudulent work visa, such as for nursing work.
Many came as students, then overstayed to work in the sex industry. Many women arrive in the United States from China bearing heavy debt burdens and try to find work in restaurants or nail salons.
The massage jobs are presented as opportunities for fast, easy money. One reason the Asian massage parlors remain so poorly understood is the extreme reluctance of the women to speak with the police and even with their own lawyers.
Latimer said. Some fear retaliation by traffickers to their families in China, and some feel morally indebted to those who helped find them a job, said Chris Muller, the director of training and external affairs at Restore NYC, an anti-sex-trafficking organization. I found you a job. I found you a place to live and this is how you repay me? Small networks of spas are also common, and their ownership structures are complex and opaque.
Above these site managers is usually a person who appears on paperwork as the massage parlor owner, but is often just a frontman running a shell company.The site shows massage parlors in Kansas and Missouri that sell sex, with around 40 just in Kansas City. Are you kidding me? Robert Kraft, the billionaire owner of the Patriots, is included in a human trafficking bust in Florida.
Investigators used Rubmaps to help them arrest traffickers and identify over men who allegedly paid for sex at massage parlors. Anti-sex trafficking groups say women who work at these places are likely trafficked, and likely from another country. They wouldn't even know where to go for help even if they understood they were victims," said Kuriakose. Kuriakose was sex trafficked for eight years and finally got the support to get out. She started an organization called Streetlight and does outreach in the metro.
'Rubmaps.com' shows where you can get a 'happy ending' massage, tied to Kraft investigation
She says women are forced to service anywhere from 12 to 20 men a day. If they don't, they may be beaten. We're finding with a lot of victims that that is their home. Not only their income, but their home. A lot of times they don't have an income; it's taken by the managers and the pimps. They don't receive the money that's laid on the table," said Kuriakose. Kuriakose and other advocacy groups are working on the Olathe 19 Initiative, where they plan to spread awareness and fliers to 14, people, starting with apartment complexes and expanding to businesses.
She says the most common sex trafficking front in Johnson County is a business like a massage parlor, nail salon, and even grocery stores. Tuttle and Kuriakose say the number one misconception that keeps demand high is that these workers are just doing a job. We talked to police departments around the metro who say they are aware of Rubmaps, but couldn't go into specifics. News Local News. Actions Facebook Tweet Email.
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As paid sex goes, a trip to the massage parlor sounds classier than hiring a hooker. But that's like saying coprophagia sounds like a classier bathroom activity than taking a shower -- entirely accurate, until you learn what it really means.
Pop culture had convinced us that all masseuses are Jennifer Love Hewitts whose only worry is which male model to jack off before marrying. But then we talked to "Amy," who worked in a parlor in Montreal, and she told us the sticky truth If you search for a video of a woman giving a man a massage, it's going to play out the same way 90 percent of the time: She slowly rubs down the client with oil, things steadily getting hotter until the pair are nothing but a tangle of naked, glistening limbs.
Well, the prevalence of this genre of porn is setting people up for a huge disappointment if they ever get a real-life massage, even if it is an erotic one. If you have this kind of "massage" parlor in your neighborhood -- the kind where they massage the client's boner -- you might see real beds instead of the standard massage tables. But more often than not, they have to keep up the illusion with the regulation equipment. It's hard enough with any customer, and it's extra tricky with the chunky ones.
Tetristhe long bar comes when you least expect it, and lands in the worst possible place. And that's if she manages to stay on the table at all. One time, "the client was paying for a BJ but was very insistent on seeing my ass. It turns out that blowjobs also tend to give masseuses lockjaw when the table forces them into uncomfortable poses. We tried to read up some more on this topic, but that led us to Cosmo and we had to flee, screaming.
Cosmopolitan Something Cosmo is very, very good at making us do. The aforementioned porn videos invariably focus on the sensual application of oil.
That's because oil brings to mind the body's own fluids, and it shows off the actors' bodies, and it winds up as lube once the boning commences. But though Amy's massage parlor had huge massage oil bottles in each room, the oil never found its onto customers' crotchular regions.
That's because oil dissolves condoms. And Amy would always use condoms, no matter what the client said. So here's how the scenario really plays out: After a few minutes of totally dry massage, Amy would ignore the props and reach for her hidden purse, which held lube and condoms for the actual sex. You can't legally advertise sex services in Canada. So Amy's parlor was in an office building, and it only advertised massage. The signs didn't even use outlines of women or garish neon, and the inside didn't look particularly sexual.
Dimmers controlled the light, and Amy had to adjust them to set the mood. The music, as she puts it, was "a cheesy massage calm-soothing-water CD" -- a spa soundtrack, with nary a porn riff in earshot. Still, most people who entered understood what the place was truly for. Most people. Here's the way it's supposed to work: The client pays a straight fee for a "massage" -- this money goes to the parlor, not the masseuse.
The client strips, showers, gets on the table and under a towel, and Amy gives him a preliminary rub-down not a real massage, since they aren't trained for that. Then she asks what else he wants, he tells her explicitly, and it's understood he will give her a "tip" for said services, which she keeps.
The towel comes off, and she takes it from there. But the guy sometimes just doesn't respond. And it goes something like this:.Asian Massage and Belton Massage, both off 58 Highway, are now caught in the crosshairs of a prostitution and potential human trafficking investigation.
Missouri Highway Patrol started looking into both businesses after getting a tip six months ago. Bill Lowe with Missouri Highway Patrol.
We continued following up on any kind of lead we could follow up on. Businesses that neighbor each of the massage parlors told FOX4 they long suspected illegal activity after seeing men park far away and walk into the businesses and a slew of women coming and going at all hours. This week, Highway Patrol, local police and the feds raided the two massage parlors, pulling stacks of documents.
Behind Illicit Massage Parlors Lie a Vast Crime Network and Modern Indentured Servitude
They found year-old Shaungshaung Lin exiting a massage room. Court records say one man admitted Lin had been performing a sex act on him.
Tests found evidence of semen. Shaungshaung Lin is now charged with prostitution, but was released on a signature bond and forced to surrender her passport, which was just used for travel to China two weeks ago. While Belton Massage is closed, Asian Massage is still open for business. FOX4 went inside, looking for answers. FOX4 reached out to the city of Belton to see if any disciplinary action will be taken against the businesses in light of the criminal charges.
Neighboring businesses said the massage parlors have changed hands several times. But Kelly cautioned that he "can't guarantee it will never happen, especially during these dark pandemic times. The 5-foot alligator, named Beauregard, was captured Thursday after it was seen sunbathing near Walnut Creek.
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5 Things You Learn As A Massage Parlor Prostitute
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