Asian Massage Spa in North Branch has remained closed since law enforcement executed a search warrant at the business March 17. Three individuals have been arrested in connection to promoting prostitution.
The East Central Drug and Violent Task Force, North Branch Police and Chisago County Sheriff’s Department were quick to start an investigation following multiple complaints about a high number of men observed coming and going from the massage parlor, located at 38880 Oakview Avenue, Suite 2.
Officers found an online ad on Backpage that read, “JUST OPEN doesn’t miss us Asian girls” and “we have futon and tables.” The investigator witnessed five sexually provocative photos of Asian women wearing lingerie on the advertisement.
As part of the investigation, two undercover agents visited the massage parlor on seven different occasions. The agents witnessed services that law enforcement found consistent with promotion of prostitution.
The agents paid for their massages in cash up front and reported that the business was fairly dark, making it difficult to see. The massage rooms had futon mattresses or foam mattresses.
On one occasion, a masseuse going by the name Cherry told one of the undercover agents that customers continued to touch her and that she did not like it but her boss said customers were able to touch her. She said she was also only able to work for tips and that more girls were coming. The new girls were described as one being young and two older than Cherry. When Agent 1 returned another time, he was told Cherry had gone home to New York.
According to the complaint, on a Feb. 27 visit, masseuse Lulu gave Agent 1 a price for a more intimate massage. Agent 1 reported Lulu then put her finger to her lips and indicated that he should be quiet and informed him that they could get in trouble.
During a March 2 visit by Agent 2, he reported the soft tickling touch to be more erotic than a massage. During that visit, the masseuse helped the agent get dressed.
One of the masseuses said she was from Tokyo and worked every single day at the parlor. When Agent 1 stopped the massage from getting too intimate, the masseuse leaned in and whispered “Police?” Agent 1 said he was not the police.
Lulu told Agent 2 during his March 11 visit that there would be more young girls coming next week.
Law enforcement continued to observe the business and watched three women exit the parlor and walk toward the Budget Host Inn Suites, located just two blocks away in North Branch. The manager at Budget Host Inn said two Asian females had been staying at the hotel and had prepaid for several days.
With the search warrant, officers executed searches at 2 p.m. March 17 at the massage parlor, the rooms at the Budget Inn and a car used by the women. An adult male was found undressed on a mattress in one of the rooms of the parlor during the search. Law enforcement was also able to secure multiple smart phones and a tablet PC. Over $3,000 in cash was also found during the search.
At least one of the Asian women working at the parlor had a work visa from China.
The search at the Budget Inn discovered deposit and withdrawal receipts for various checking accounts with one of the receipts indicating a deposit of $2,000 cash that was made into a bank account in the fall of 2014.
Lulu, one of the employees at the business was identified as Xirong Chen, 48, of New York. She was arrested and charged with felony 2nd-degree solicitation and promotion of prostitution, sex trafficking. According to the report, she said she believed it was okay for men to touch themselves during a massage.
A adult female who said she worked at the parlor said she was paid $28 in cash and had to work seven days a week. She identified Chen as the boss of the parlor.
On March 18, two additional women, Jin Mei Lin, 27, of New York, and Fengzhi Gao, 62, of California, were arrested and charged with felony 2nd-degree solicitation and promotion of prostitution.
The tenant on the lease agreement was listed as Gao and the vehicle used by Chen was registered to Lin.
North Branch Police have been in talks with the realtor who is handling the lease. The police have been advised the lease, that was signed Jan. 5, 2015, will not be renewed and the massage parlor will not be reopened.
Alicia Chapman is the editor of the Isanti-Chisago County Star.