NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office has shut down five “spas” that were allegedly fronts for prostitution, and indicted 12 people.
Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes announced Monday that six people were indicted for allegedly running two separate prostitution rings, and six others were arrested on prostitution charges.
As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, “day spas” offering massage therapy have been popping up all over Brooklyn. But Hynes said many of them are fronts.
This was the second phase of a yearlong investigation that has resulted in the shutdown of 17 “spa” locations and the arrests of 31 people.
“They regularly advertise on Craigslist.com and BackPage.com, accompanied by pictures that were so explicit and graphic, there was no doubt that the services to be provided was sex, not massage therapy,” Hynes said.
The first indictment charged Yun Feng Zhang, Yan Liu, Boxuan Zhang and Zhan Wei Liu with running a prostitution ring out of two “spas” – the Blue Diamond Health Center a.k.a. Spring Spa Body Work Station Inc. at 307 Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights, and Health Center Massage Therapy a.k.a. Oasis Spa at 223 Calyer St. in Brooklyn. Each faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on the top count of sex trafficking, Hynes’ office said.
A fifth suspect, Zhang Yan, was arrested and charged with unauthorized practice of a profession and prostitution at the Greenpoint location after a raid on Saturday.
The second indictment charged Nataliya Dreevetska and Sergey Talko with running a separate prostitution ring from the Beauty Connection Day Spa at 1275-77 70th St. in Bay Ridge, and the City Style Spa at 8017 New Utrecht Ave. in Dyker Heights. Each faces seven years in prison if convicted of the top count of promoting prostitution in the third degree.
Also arrested in the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights bust were Yuliya Doherty and Anastasi Karvova, who were both charged with unauthorized practice of a profession after a Sunday raid. Karvova was also charged with prostitution.
Three others were arrested after a raid at another “day spa” at 31 Bay Ridge Ave., which has been the source of repeated complaints in the neighborhood, prosecutors said. Seol-Hwa Park, Meizi Huang, and spa owner Fu Lan Quan were all charged with unauthorized practice of a profession, while Huang and Park were also charged with prostitution, prosecutors said.
The raids on the Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights operations came after residents complained to prosecutors through Brooklyn Community Board 10 late last year about “suspicious and disruptive activities.”
At one of the “spas” operated by the Zhang-Liu ring, prosecutors claimed a woman was assaulted and forced to engage in prostitution. Yun Feng Zhang allegedly kicked and slapped the woman, saying the customer is “God” and she must do whatever a customer wants, prosecutors said.
Investigators established a paper trail and found that customers had paid for prostitution services by cash and credit card, which Zhang and Liu allegedly laundered first through legitimate businesses, then through the bank accounts of associated spas in Florida, Texas, and New Hampshire, prosecutors said.
The laundered proceeds were used to pay for Craigslist and BackPage.com ads, prosecutors said.
Drevetska and Talko’s spas also advertised online, offering “amazing body rub… unforgettable body work” with graphic images, prosecutors said. Money laundering was also involved in that operation, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have been working with the NYPD Civil Enforcement Unit to shut down the spas.
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