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Cops raid 8 massage parlors in Warren



Published: Thu, May 31, 2012 @ 12:01 a.m.

photo

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, left, stands with Warren Mayor Doug Franklin in front of Sun Spa, 2819 W. Market St. NW, just after agents and Warren police raided it and seven other massage parlors Wednesday.

By ED RUNYAN

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

Police were working behind the scenes while city officials and community activists were working legislatively over the past year to put a stop to the suspected sex trade at Warren’s massage parlors.

Their investigation culminated Wednesday morning in raids on eight of the city’s 10 massage parlors by nearly 60 state investigators and Warren police, who came in search of physical evidence to corroborate what they had learned during interviews.

“We know it’s prostitution,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Wednesday of the activity discovered at the parlors since last July by way of interviews with customers and former employees.

DeWine, standing in front of the Sun Spa on West Market Street with Warren Mayor Doug Franklin just after the raids started at 10 a.m., said the yearlong investigation involved interviews with 38 customers and turned up “a ton of prostitution.”

Details of the interviews were contained in an affidavit filed with Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in support of the search warrants, which were approved by Judge W. Wyatt McKay.

The raids were designed to recover physical evidence such as devices and materials associated with sexual activity, records, canceled checks, credit-card receipts, bank-deposit slips, computers, other electronic devices and video-surveillance data, DeWine said.

He expected agents, including forensic experts and crime-scene investigators from his Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, to remain at the eight sites throughout the day. No arrests were going to be made Wednesday, but a variety of criminal charges is possible at a later date, DeWine said.

The affidavit said investigators expect to find additional evidence of prostitution, promoting prostitution, human trafficking and engaging in organized crime.

A DeWine spokesperson said late Wednesday that charges also are possible against the “johns.”

DeWine said one goal of the investigation is to stop prostitution, but “really the question” he hoped investigators could answer through their work Wednesday and onward is whether human trafficking is taking place in the parlors.

DeWine said what he saw personally inside the Sun Spa suggested as much.

There were four sleeping bags on the floor of the parlor, which DeWine said is “not a good sign” and might suggest that women working there are being forced to work at the parlors against their will.

A North Bloomfield man told an investigator he could get any type of sexual activity he wanted for about $140 at one of the parlors, and he suspected “some of the females ‘do not want to be working at these places.’” He added that their life may still be better here than in Korea, where they came from.

The affidavit reported that some of the women were driven by a “jockey” from New York City to Warren after arriving in New York from Korea. A different male had been seen driving the women to the Victoria’s Secret store in Eastwood Mall in Niles, the document said.

Jockeys “were persons that would take the women out of the spas so they could go shopping,” a 56-year-old Korean woman who worked at the Ocean Spa on North Road until November, told an investigator.

“She stated that she performed sexual acts on men for a fee,” the affidavit said. The woman described the prices as being between $50 and $300. “She went on to state that she knew a lot of the women working at the other spas and that all of the Warren spas are sex-related,” the affidavit said.

Of the 38 customers interviewed after investigators identified them and their vehicles through surveillance cameras, most described the cost for sex and a massage as being $140 to $210.

The customers interviewed were from a wide area, including some as close as Warren, Leavittsburg, North Bloomfield, Canfield and Campbell. Many others were from the Cleveland area — Willoughby, Parma, Amherst, Westlake and Shaker Heights. One man was interviewed in his Pepper Pike law office, the affidavit said. Others were from Cuyahoga Falls, Shelby, Louisville and Austinburg.

The raids didn’t shut down the eight parlors, but DeWine said he thought it would be difficult for them to continue in business anytime soon.

“We hope to shut these houses of prostitution here in Warren,” DeWine said.

Dennis Watkins, Trumbull County prosecutor, who helped secure the search warrants, also will assist the attorney general’s office in determining whether a nuisance action should be filed in an effort to close the parlors, DeWine said.

Warren City Council passed legislation in January forcing the city’s 10 recreational massage parlors to close between midnight and 6 a.m. and imposing larger licensing fees. That followed several anti-trafficking and anti-prostitution demonstrations conducted by Warren citizens and the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative in 2011.

Nine of the 10 parlors have since challenged the legislation in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. A trial is scheduled for July 30.

Cheryl Saffold, a Warren council member who worked extensively on the massage parlor legislation, said she didn’t know anything like the raids were coming. Her first reaction when she heard about the raids was, “Thank God,” she said.

“Myself personally and a lot of citizens of Warren and the faith-based community wanted to see this for a long time. We felt there was criminal activity, but we had no way to prove it. For the state of Ohio to come in is a dream come true,” Saffold added.

The attorney general said the investigation began a short time after a group of Warren citizens asked him for help during a meeting May 25, 2011, in the basement of St. Dominic Church in Youngstown.

That was followed by a letter from Warren Police Chief Tim Bowers June 2, 2011, also asking for the attorney general’s help.

DeWine said it was necessary to deploy state resources to help the city because the job was too big for Warren police to handle alone.

“Unfortunately, this great city ... for some reason has become the epicenter for prostitution in this part of the state,” DeWine said.

Franklin thanked DeWine for “helping us with this huge problem of prostitution in our city and alleged human trafficking.”

PARLORS RAIDED

Anyone with information about these businesses that could aid in the investigation cancall the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation at 1-855-BCI-OHIO.

• Fantasy Spa, 1523 Youngstown Road SE

• Fuji Spa, 1446 Parkman Road NW

• Gemini Health Spa, 2414 Youngstown Road SE

• Hong Kong Spa, 2019 W. Market St. SW

• Sun Spa, 2819 W. Market St. NW

• Moon Night Spa, 3875 Youngstown Road SE

• Ocean Spa, 2000 North Road SE

• Tokyo Health Spa, 2970 Parkman Road NW

Source: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine


Comments

1chevelle64(11 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

finally we can put prostitution back on the public streets where it belongs

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2sugoi(5 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I agree with HellaBB - of all the MAJOR problems we live with, this is where the money and focus goes? WOW!! I live on a street with 4 crack houses, and no one does anything about them. The thefts, robberies, drugs, lack of anywhere to go or do anything, lack of jobs.... Close down these places and the bars and there'll be nothing left in Warren..... Seriously! Focus on a REAL problem!!!

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3bmanresident(597 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

If they figured out a way to tax these cash transactions then prostitution would be perfectly legal. All the government is ever worried about is getting their cut of the pie.

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4UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Thank you Atty Gen Mike DeWine for injecting some moral values back into the Valley.

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5doowoptokidrock(325 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

If you really think Warren will now be a less crime ridden town you are in for a surprise.

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6northsideperson(365 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I won't argue for or against prostitution, but if this is human trafficking then it has to stop.

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7ytownsteelman(628 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

If prostitution was legal then there would be a greater supply of the prostitutes, lessening the need to bring them in from Korea. The parlors could be regulated and taxes assessed. With it being illegal, there is no opportunity to regulate the activity.

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8Jean58(1 comment)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Wasn't there just an article in the Trib about crime in Warren getting worse? I think worry about the drugs, murder, robberies, street gangsin Warren is far more important then busting massage parlors.

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9DwightK(1256 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

This is not sex between consenting adults if these girls are being forced into this. Stop being so selfish.

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10theguins(169 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

How nice to see the AG and Mayor with cameras rolling walking in to a Massage Parlor making a bust. Politics at its best. Stop by a crack house after midnight and bust them with cameras rolling. You may not come out alive.

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11doowoptokidrock(325 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Just like the Martin case a lot of people are positive about the trafficking in the spas. I will wait until the facts come out.

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12anothermike(211 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Over a year of "investigation", no arrests made......Operating eight cat houses for years earned them enough to buy off the supreme court....Good Grief!!

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13walter_sobchak(1909 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Victimless crime? OK, what if your daughter (or son) were taken against their will to Korea and forced into prostitution? I say that the police should sit outside these places, take auto license plate #'s and send postcards to the registration addresses noting that the car was parked in an area known for prostitution and human trafficking. AG DeWine responded to the requests of citizens, does his job, and gets beaten up for it!

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