Monday, October 25, 2010

Prostitution raids shut down massage parlors in Bucks County (The Morning Call)

Prostitution raids shut down massage parlors in Bucks County
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said eight spas were raided over the weekend.

3:48 p.m. EDT, October 25, 2010

Ten women working at massage parlors throughout Bucks County were rounded up and taken into custody Friday night on prostitution-related charges.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said the women, all of South Korean or Asian descent, were operating out of eight massage parlors or "spas" in several communities, including Quakertown and Springfield, Nockamixon and Doylestown townships.

Heckler said the women were arraigned early Saturday morning, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency placed detainers against five of them after determining they entered the country illegally.

All of the businesses operated in a low-key manner, without generating complaints or nuisance calls to police, Heckler said. But the activities that police suspected went on behind closed doors needed to be investigated, Heckler said.

"I suspect many of the people who patronize these places aren't complaining," Heckler said. "The most troubling aspect of this whole endeavor is that many of the women live on site."

Heckler said the women are basically indentured servants, working as sex slaves to pay for their passage to the United States. Of the women arrested, five served as the madams or "momma-sans" of the establishments while the other five worked as prostitutes, Heckler said.

Heckler said the owners generally are based in New York City, and they sometimes monitor activities at their spas with streaming video over the internet. Heckler said he doesn't know if any camera or surveillance equipment was found during these most raids. Regardless, he said he doubts the investigation will lead to arrests further up the chain because the owners insulate themselves against prosecution.

The goal of the raids, Heckler said, was to show them that they can't operate freely in Bucks County.

"I'd like to make Bucks County an inhospitable and expensive place for them to do business," Heckler said.

Heckler said the detectives from his office began investigating the spas with local police agencies after a Springfield Township official approached him about the inability of local municipalities to conduct their own investigations because of limited manpower and resources.

Authorities raided two spas in Springfield Township, the Hilltop Spa and Wellness Center Spa, just south of Coopersburg on Route 309. The West End Spa on Route 309 in Quakertown also was raided.

Route 309 from Coopersburg south to Montgomeryville has over the years become a gauntlet of sex-oriented businesses, including at least three adult book stores and two female dance clubs..

The raid Friday night also targeted two massage parlors on Route 611, the Sun Acupressure massage parlor in Doylestown Township and the Pine Tree Spa in Nockamixon Township near Ottsville. Other spas in lower Bucks County also were raided, Heckler said.

The raids followed visits to the establishments by local police and county detectives who went undercover to get evidence of the women soliciting money for sex, but the investigators did not engage in the illegal activities, Heckler said.

The women were arraigned before District Judge Maggie Snow in Buckingham Saturday and sent to Bucks County jail. Heckler said five of them are eligible to post bail, but the five being held on immigration detainers will remain in jail until their cases are prosecuted.

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