INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Metro police officers shut down three west side massage parlors Friday, after arresting four women inside for prostitution earlier in the week. I-Team 8 was there as officers closed the doors.
Officers raided the Aegean Spa in the 8300 block of Little Eagle Court, the Spiritual Spa in the 5500 block of West 10th Street, and the Tranquil Spa in the 4900 block of W. Washington Street on Wednesday.
“We entered these locations on Wednesday with administrative search warrants,” IMPD Nuisance Abatement Sergeant William Carter told I-Team 8. “We sent in undercover officers earlier in the day. They actually were propositioned, or fondled. And, one of the individuals that’s back here working was actually arrested Wednesday for prostitution. So, she’s already back in here two days later working.”
Police arrested Han Lin, Liying Xu, Yunway Zhang, and Bo Ding on a preliminary charge of misdemeanor prostitution.
Each of the parlors also failed to hold a valid massage license and was operating in violation of zoning ordinances, according to the city prosecutor.
On Friday, officers returned to ensure the businesses were closed, armed with a temporary restraining order from a judge and signs notifying customers that the businesses had been shut down by the city.
No one answered the door at the Aegean Spa, but officers found both the “open” signs lit at both the Spiritual Spa and Tranquil Spa.
A man receiving a massage inside the Tranquil Spa was asked by police to leave.
“I just came in for a massage,” he told I-Team 8 as he hurried out the door. “I had no idea [that police alleged prostitution was occurring inside]. No idea, sorry.”
Investigators don’t buy it.
“Yesterday alone on one of the social pages, there were 29 different massage parlors advertising to perform massages in the City of Indianapolis, none of which are licensed by the City of Indianapolis. Of the 29, 23 were listed as new. And, the advertising is [blatant, with] pictures of partially clad women. Some of the ads even give the breast size of the person that’s giving the massage. So, obviously, the intent is not really to get a massage,” Carter said.
It’s a symptom of a larger set of “pop-up problems” police are seeing, including possible human trafficking, Carter said. Many of the girls arrested through such undercover massage parlor operations have nowhere else have go.
“The girls live here. Today, the girl was cooking food as we entered. And, they don’t leave. They have no idea where to go. They don’t have cars here. They don’t have any kind of transportation. We’ve asked what city they were in, and they don’t even know,” Carter said.
The problem is further compounded by a language barrier.
“Of the six women we encountered Wednesday, none of the six could speak any English. Only one had a visa, the others just had passports. They can say enough English lines to offer the different types of sexual favors, and when you go in, you’ll hear them practicing those lines. But, that’s it,” Carter said.
It leaves vice officers frustrated, with an inevitable realization.
“As fast as we can close them, they open back up,” Carter said.
That’s a serious concern to some living and working nearby.
At the Spiritual Spa, where a daycare sits just 50 yards from the business’ back door, Daniel Grundy said most suspected there was more to the business than advertised.
“I had speculations,” said Grundy, who owns a barbershop and beauty store next door to the Spiritual Spa. “But, I didn’t feel like I had any power to do anything about it. I’m not surprised. This is the second time that [a bust] took place, and they were back in business 24 hours later.”
It’s the reason vice officers are now focusing on the civil law approach through licensing to shut the parlors down for good.
“The license is there to protect the integrity of the neighborhood,” Carter said. “None of these places are zoned for that. The last location is next to a daycare, where people drop their children off every day. That’s one of the things the zoning protects from. If you’re not licensed, you’re going to have an issue with our police department and city attorneys.”
IMPD is also attempting to hold the owners of all three buildings responsible for their tenants. None of those owners returned I-Team 8’s calls Friday.
They’re due to appear in a Marion County court at the end of the month, where a judge will determine if these temporary orders to close will become permanent.
Carter says he’ll be there to make the city’s case.
“What do we want people to think of our city? That’s the thing I look at in my job. Do we really want this going on in our city? I don’t,” he said.