3 more arrested after massage parlor investigation in Utah County

Jiu Wang (left) and Xiaoxia Liu (right). Photos Courtesy: Utah County Jail

UTAH COUNTY, Utah, Feb. 8, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Three more women have been arrested after a multi-month investigation into alleged human trafficking, prostitution and money laundering at multiple massage parlors in Utah County.

Jing Wang, 34, and Xiaoxia Liu, 60, both of Chicago, are both facing charges of:

  • Human trafficking, a second-degree felony
  • Money laundering, a second-degree felony
  • Pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony
  • Tamper with witness or juror, a third-degree felony
  • Prostitution, a class B misdemeanor

A female that allegedly worked at a parlor in American Fork was arrested on a misdemeanor charge.

Five other women and a man were arrested Thursday.

The original investigation took place after American Fork police received an online complaint in September regarding a new “Asian” massage parlor at 376 E. 60 South in that city. The parlor’s website offered sexually oriented massages, the anonymous complainant said.

The complainant stated that if a male was sent in and became naked, the masseuse would touch him inappropriately, and “If you do not complain, she will continue, and even make offers for more,” a probable cause statement says.

The statement, filed by an officer of the American Fork Police Department, said “Asian” massage parlors are often operated by criminal organizations, and workers are often victims of human trafficking.

“Some of the Asian females are forced to live in small closets or rooms within the massage business premise and given only minimal means for survival,” the police statement says. “If the Asian female victims are not living on the store premise, they often live with several other Asian women who are also victims of the human trafficking organization in apartment buildings or homes owned or rented by members of the criminal organization.”

The probable cause statement — which was nearly identical for all suspects — says surveillance was conducted, and found the woman who applied for the business license at Sunflower Massage, and found she also owned Relax Wood and Small Rainbow, both in Orem, and Magic Massage, in American Fork.

“Detectives have found through surveillance that most of the female masseurs appear to stay at the different parlors they work at,” the probable cause statement says. “Detectives have rarely seen the female workers leave through multiple hours of surveillance, both physical and electronic.

“Through my training, experience and conversations with other officers who specialize in this field, I have found that rarely if ever are the Asian females involved in being trafficked allowed to leave the business. This is done to control the female individuals and keep them involved in trafficking.”

Detectives performed multiple undercover operations where officers were sent in as patrons to the different massage parlors, “and found each of the above listed massage parlors solicited sexual acts in exchange for payment,” the statement says.

“Detectives performed undercover operations on Sunflower Massage, Relax Wood LLC, Magic Massage, and Small Rainbow. At the undercover operations the Asian female masseurs solicited sexual activities in exchange for money, this was denied by undercover officers.”

On Thursday, officers served a search warrant at an American Fork massage parlor. One female worker, Yan Tomney, and a massage client were located.

“Post Miranda, the male admitted to finding the massage parlor on dark web sites and communicating with a contact number with price and services provided. The male admitted to agreeing on a $60 purchase for a massage and a ‘happy ending.'”

During the massage, the man told police, he and the woman agreed on another act for the cost of $140, the statement says.

Post Miranda, Tomney told officers she arrived in Utah last month, from Boise, Idaho, and “was in the process of purchasing the Sunflower massage parlor from another individual who is involved in human trafficking,” using money she had earned working at the business.

After the six were transported to jail, detectives and other investigators listened to jail phone calls and heard individuals talk about a woman who worked in a parlor in American Fork being transported to Chicago, the statement for Jing Wang and Xiaoxia Liu says. Investigators claim they discovered the victim had called the Asian Aid Society and told them she wanted to leave the state and go to Chicago, and requested a plane ticket to Chicago. Detectives believe that the victim was then contacted by members of the organization and was being forced back into trafficking. The victim told detectives that she has no family in the United States, and no associates locally.

On Saturday, detectives attempted to make contact with the victim at the Salt Lake International Airport. Detectives observed a white GMC Terrain pull up in front of the Delta terminal and drop off two Asian women, the victim and Jing Wang, who then entered the flight terminals.

Detectives made contact with the victim and Jing Wang and detained them. According to the probable cause statement, the two were found in possession of an orange suitcase and purple suitcase, and two iPhones, one with a pink and one with an orange case.

Detectives then performed a traffic stop on the white GMC Terrain and made contact with the driver, later identified as Xiaoxia Liu, the statement says. She told detectives she had no idea what was going on, she was only helping a friend out. On Feb. 4 detectives found that one of the organization members had a phone number saved in their phone which had the name “Laoban,” which translates to “boss,” saved in the contacts with a phone number which belonged to Liu. Detectives performed a record search on the phone number associated with “boss” and found the phone returned to Liu, according to investigators.

“Detectives obtained a search warrant on the suitcases and cell phones,” the statement says.”Detectives found that the victim was in possession of a suitcase which inside had her passport, and a couple change of clothes. Inside the other suitcase detectives found that identification, incriminating documents, belonging to the victim as well as approximately $40,000 in jewelry and other merchandise.” This suitcase was locked and being pulled by Wang, police said.

“Through my training, experience, and conversation with other law enforcement officers I have found that this is a common technique used by traffickers in a hope to control the victim,” the investigator said. “The victim was transported to the airport, was only given her passport and a change of clothes so she cannot run. And in the other suitcase was incriminating items, and merchandise which are often sent with the victims to thwart law enforcement. The victim was being escorted by her trafficker to the bag check where the incriminating evidence, and merchandise would have then become inaccessible to her.”

Investigators say after being read her Miranda rights, Wangs confirmed she was transporting the victim to the airport with Liu. Wang initially denied knowing the victim was going to Chicago. The victim informed detectives that she had previously left her passport with Wang, and Wang had no explanation for this.

Police said after being read Mirandized Liu admitted to transporting the victim to the airport. She also allegedly admitted that the victim was working in a massage parlor and that she too works at the parlor. She has previously been arrested for prostitution related offenses in Illinois, the probable cause statement said.

The other suspects are Jun Li, 36, of Orem; Xiao Ling Wang, 42, of American Fork; Yue Ming, 39, of Orem; Tomney, 44, of American Fork; Ju Ying Wang, 56, of American Fork; Joseph Edward Ferreri, 54, of Salina.

Charges facing the suspects are:

Li:

  • Human trafficking, a second-degree felony
  • Money laundering, a second-degree felony
  • Pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony
  • Aiding prostitution, a class A misdemeanor
  • Two counts of prostitution, a class B misdemeanor

Xiao Ling Wang:

  • Human trafficking, a second-degree felony
  • Money laundering, a second-degree felony
  • Pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony
  • Aiding prostitution, a class A misdemeanor
  • Prostitution, a class B misdemeanor

Ming and Tomney:

  • Money laundering, a second-degree felony
  • Pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony
  • Unlawful/unprofessional conduct, a class A misdemeanor
  • Prostitution, a class B misdemeanor

Ju Ying Wang:

  • Pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony
  • Two counts of prostitution, a class B misdemeanor

Ferreri:

  • Pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony
  • Aiding prostitution, a class A misdemeanor

The seven female suspects are being held without bail. Ferreri was ordered released on $5,000 bond and with multiple conditions.

L-R, top: Jun Yan Li, Xiao Ling Wang, Yan Tomney; bottom: Yue Ming, Xiao Wang, Joseph Ferreri. Photos: Utah County

 

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