Crime & Courts

Prostitution ring linked to massage parlors

Ten people have been arrested and charged with participating in a prostitution network utilizing numerous massage parlors around Wichita, police officials said Friday.

Two men and one woman have been charged with promoting prostitution, and seven women — all Chinese nationals in the United States as refugees seeking asylum — have been charged with prostitution, Deputy Chief Tom Stolz said.

Eight parlors scattered around the city have been tied to the prostitution network, Stolz said.

"A lot of these places are already closing their doors and probably will move on," Stolz said.

Evidence indicates the women arrested on suspicion of prostitution "have come from other cities," he said.

At least some of them appeared to be living in the spas or parlors where their services were offered. All of them are adults, he said.

Police were tipped off to the network in June by someone who worked at the shopping center at 21st and Ridge Road and noticed suspicious activity at AG Spa, Stolz said.

The caller reported several fights between men and women in the parking lot, along with women coming and going at the spa early in the morning and late at night and men coming and going throughout the day.

The investigation that followed involved a variety of tactics, Stolz said, including surveillance, car stops and undercover work. Arrests were made Wednesday.

The IRS and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement have joined the investigation. At least two of the suspects appear to have tax issues, Stolz said.

ICE was called in because the suspected prostitutes are from China, he said, but because prostitution is a misdemeanor it is not grounds for deportation.

"They only deport on serious crimes," Stolz said.

The investigation into the network remains active, he said, with a focus on potential financial crimes.

"We'll continue to look at how the money came in and went out," he said.

When police crack down on a prostitution ring, he said, police officials often hear, "Don't you have something better to do?"

"These cases always manifest themselves into greater crimes — violence, drugs, and many times aggravated assaults," Stolz said.

"That's why we take these cases very seriously.... When it begins to manifest itself in violence, that's when people really get concerned."

Spas, massage parlors and massage therapists are not licensed in the city of Wichita.

"If we would get a bunch of these (prostitution networks), clearly we would have to take a look at some law changes," Stolz said. "We'll do what we have to do to make sure the city is safe."

Anyone who is aware of similarly suspicious activity occurring at massage parlors in the city is asked to call the Wichita Police Department's special investigations section at 316-268-4171, police said.

"I like this case because it's another great example of a citizen that sees something they know is not right, so they call," Stolz said. "After three months we were able to sew this case up."

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