EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSAsian Massage Parlor Raided, Shut Down After Undercover Investigation
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported: Feb. 26, 2014 12:38 PM EST
Updated: Feb. 26, 2014 10:48 PM EST
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- A Charleston massage parlor is accused of offering up more than just massages. In an Eyewitness News exclusive investigation, we uncovered the details behind a police raid that led to an Asian massage parlor's closure.
Eyewitness News has been looking into Asian Massage in Kanawha City for almost two months. Right now, their doors are closed and a state investigation is well underway, after a group of Chinese women are accused of performing sex acts on clients.
It's late February, and Christmas decorations still line the storefront at Asian Massage on 41st in Kanawha City. That's because Christmas was the last time they saw any customers.
"I think it's pretty shocking for this type of disgusting behavior to take place in what's perceived to be a legitimate business in Charleston," Lt. Steve Cooper, Chief of Detectives at the Charleston Police Department, said. "It didn't take long to figure out, once we got in, that there was more going on that just a massage."
State documents obtained by Eyewitness News under the Freedom of Information Act describe what police said is the first investigation of its kind in the city of Charleston.
The inquiry was first launched by the West Virginia Massage Licensure Board in October.
The documents allege one of the board's investigators had sex acts performed on him during a massage, inappropriate actions enough for the board to enlist the help of the Charleston Police Department.
Documents allege undercover officers went in on numerous occasions over the next month. On the first visit, the report indicates nothing sexual happened, but the woman performing the massage touched and blew on his private parts.
"It was implied but when he did not reciprocate or did not consent, then nothing happened," Cooper said.
The woman giving the massages was identified in the complaint as Xiaohua Ge Flores, aka "Coco." Flores does not have a massage license in the state of West Virginia, but the investigation was far from over.
Three more undercover officers went back in a few weeks later, all getting massages simultaneously. The report indicates they were "touched inappropriately" and asked if they wanted sexual favors, but did not ask for additional money in exchange for those acts. The officers declined.
Police said the three women giving the massages were Flores, Yanhua Gao, aka "Dede," and Yan Xu, aka "Apple."
Xu, or "Apple," was the only licensed therapist in the building. She is also the owner and operator of Asian Massage.
"At that point we went back with a warrant and raided the establishment," Cooper said.
"I was shocked when I come back to work and someone was telling me that it got raided,” Gayle Phouthavunt, who works next door at Magic Dry-cleaners, said. “I said, 'Wow, I never thought that some people would do that around here. It's kind of creepy, you know, especially when you're next door to it."
During the raid, police said there were several men on tables receiving massages, all of them admitting to getting sexual favors, some more than a dozen times over the last several months.
"This seems like prostitution. Is there a fine line here?" Eyewitness News reporter Leslie Rubin asked during an interview with Cooper.
"There is a fine line, there has to be an agreed upon price for an agreed upon act, and we can't prove that there was any agreement," Cooper said.
The board suspended Xu's license on December 27, 2013, saying her practice constituted "an immediate danger to the public."
Eyewitness News searched state documents going back to 2010 and only found two other instances where massage therapist's licenses were suspended or revoked.
One was in Morgantown for accused sexual harassment of an employee. The other was in Charleston after a medical massage therapist was accused of sexually abusing a client.
Eyewitness News put in repeated requests for interviews with the board inquiring how these cases are investigated and handled, but were denied.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's office also refused comment on the investigation at Asian Massage. Morrisey's office also provides legal service to licensing boards in the state and forwarded inquiries to their client, the massage therapy board. The board's executive director, Linda Lyter, once again, refused comment.
Eyewitness News went in search of Xu and found her living on D Street in South Charleston.
"My name is Leslie Rubin. I'm a reporter at WCHS-TV. We are doing a story on what happened over at Asian Massage," Rubin said, when Xu came out of her upstairs apartment.
Records indicate Xu recently bought the building, that ironically houses a massage parlor, but she was adamant she didn't work there.
"No, no, no...I'm not working,” she said. “I have an agreement and I'm not working anymore."
The owner confirmed she doesn't work there, and his only relation to her is that he pays her rent for the space, but Xu denied the sexual allegations against her and her unlicensed staff.
"Were you all performing those sex acts on the customers?" Rubin asked.
"No, no," Xu said.
Xu submitted a response to the board's allegations against her and her establishment. In a lengthy statement, she admitted to letting the unlicensed staff work for her, not mandating that the clients be issued drapes to cover up with, and not keeping records for each client, but denied any sexual misconduct.
"I would like to let the members of the board know that I am willing to give up my business license and never run my own massage therapy business in the state of West Virginia, so long as I may continue practicing massage under the supervision of another business owner," she wrote in the letter.
However, she told Eyewitness News, she didn't know why her license was suspended.
"I don't know, the massage people keep my massage license, I don't know why," she said.
"You don't know why they took it away?" Rubin asked.
"I don't know why," Xu replied.
As this investigation continues, police are hoping more people will come forward and expose potentially shady businesses that may be offering up more than you paid for.
There were some signs that clients not wishing to participate in this behavior could have noticed rather quickly.
1. There weren't legitimate licenses hanging on the wall for every person working there.
As for Xu, she will likely have a hearing in front of the massage board before a decision is made regarding permanently revoking her license.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Leslie Rubin) -- A Charleston massage parlor is accused of offering up more than just massages.
In an Eyewitness News exclusive investigation, details were uncovered behind a police raid that led to the parlor's closures in December.
Eyewitness News has been looking into Asian Massage in Kanawha City for almost two months. Right now, its doors are closed and a state investigation is under way after a group of Chinese women were accused of performing sex acts on clients.
Tonight on Eyewitness News at 10, we take you inside the investigation that police said is one of the first of its kind in Charleston. An inquiry was first launched by the West Virginia Massage Licensure Board.
The information we uncovered raised some questions as to why criminal charges weren't brought about in the case, and the answer may surprise you.
Eyewitness News also went in search of the alleged ring leader of the operation to get her side of the story.
"It's pretty shocking for this kind of disgusting behavior to be taking place in what's perceived to be a legitimate business in Charleston," Lt. Steve Cooper of the Charleston Police Department said.
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