Woodbury massage company owner who operated ‘brothel in broad daylight’ is doomed – Twin Cities
It took a Washington County jury less than an hour to convict a White Bear Lake woman last week on charges relating to operating illicit massage parlors in Woodbury and White Bear Lake.
Shixun Lan, 53, of White Bear Lake, was convicted of four counts of sex trafficking, including promoting prostitution and obtaining profits from prostitution. Lan owned and operated Woodbury Wellness in Woodbury and White Orchid Spa in White Bear Lake.
“The fact that this brothel is active in two cities, in bustling shopping malls open to the public – and in broad daylight – is a testament to what these traffickers will do for money,” Washington County Attorney Pete said. Orput. “Our office will continue to aggressively pursue these cases to seek justice for the voiceless victims. “
Lan began operating Woodbury Wellness in May 2017 after city officials approved plans for the massage business at 9900 Valley Creek Road. Shortly thereafter, according to the criminal complaint, she started to advertise in the massage section of Backpage.com, showing photos of Asian women and inside the company.
From June to September 2018, members of the working group on human trafficking in the eastern metro carried out surveillance and mainly saw men entering and exiting companies. Two women appeared to live inside.
Woodbury Wellness also operated odd hours – 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. – another potential sign of sex trafficking, officials said.
Investigators saw Lan transporting women to his home in White Bear Lake and the White Orchid Spa at 1979 Whitaker St. in White Bear Lake. She also made trips to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
CLIENTS INTERVIEWED BY THE POLICE
Several clients, interviewed during roadside checks after leaving Woodbury Wellness, told investigators their interactions with the massage therapists, most of whom are from China, involved sexual activity, according to the criminal complaint.
One man said he had been there five or six times and had “tipped” three different women $ 40 after having sex; another man said two other Woodbury Wellness employees offered him sexual acts on other occasions, according to the complaint.
In September 2018, an off-duty Washington County Sheriff investigator saw condom wrappers fall from a trash bag that a woman brought in the trash behind the company, Imran Ali said, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division of the Washington County Attorney’s Office and Director of the Eastern Subway Sex Trafficking Task Force.
Search warrants executed days later by task force members using ultraviolet lights showed “bodily fluids” in every massage room, the complaint said.
Three women who were at Woodbury Wellness and White Orchid Spa denied providing sex acts to clients. A woman, who was unlicensed to be a massage therapist in Woodbury, was in possession of a large sum of money, according to the complaint.
Lan was arrested outside a bank in Woodbury and refused to speak to investigators. She had over $ 7,000 in cash on her.
Lee Vague, Chief Constable and Director of the Woodbury Public Safety Department, on Monday praised the work of the East Metro Sex Trafficking Task Force.
“Over the past four years, we have dedicated resources to tackling this scourge in our community,” he said. “The safety of the citizens of Woodbury is and always will be our priority. It is imperative that the work of the task force continues as we encounter new evils every day. “
Lan was arrested after her conviction last week and is being held without bail at the Washington County Jail. His sentencing is scheduled for March 6 at 10 a.m. before Washington County District Judge Richard Ilkka. She faces up to 15 years in prison and up to $ 60,000 in fines.
A CALL FOR A STATE-WIDE LICENSE
Minnesota is one of four states that do not regulate massage therapy statewide, said Ron Precht, senior director of communications at the American Massage Therapy Association.
Instead, regulating massage businesses falls on local municipalities, which can create “gaping holes for traffickers to use to their advantage,” Precht said.
Without a statewide licensing system, “people who don’t behave in the right way … can just walk around on the streets,” he said.
Ali, director of the task force, said he hopes Lan’s conviction sends a message to the Minnesota legislature that the licensing issue needs to be addressed.
“I don’t know how many more times we have to watch an article in the newspaper about the closing of another massage parlor and the conviction of a person for human trafficking,” he said. “It’s a problem in all cities that have massage parlors. It’s not just confined here to the metro. We have participated in surveys statewide – large and small towns. Something really has to be done. “
The women in the Woodbury and White Bear Lake businesses were offered “specific linguistic and cultural services,” Ali said.
“Our target in these cases is number 1, the recovery of the victims,” he said. “No. 2 is to put all the resources, both investigative and prosecution, to mount a case that ultimately leads to a conviction.