SIDNEY — The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office disbanded an illegal massage parlor in Sidney on Monday, April 18.
The Oasis Spa, located at 525 N. Vandemark Road, was served a search warrant by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of being connected to human trafficking. The Sheriff’s Office had received a tip six months ago regarding the business and has been working with a task force out of Montgomery County on the investigation.
“We had received a tip that there had either been human trafficking going on in the business or that there was a business that was performing sexual acts for pay,” Shelby County Sheriff Jim Frye said.
In working with the task force, the Sheriff’s Office learned that where illicit massage businesses are concerned, the victims working in the businesses are flown from China with their family paying a fee so that they have work visas and documents that allow them to be in the United States. According to Sheriff’s Office Investigator Angie Jones, many of these victims come into the country from either Flushing, New York, or San Diego, California. Once they enter the United States, they’re typically kept in an apartment of 10 to 15 girls and are eventually distributed to businesses throughout the United States.
“Typically, the massage parlors are connected with Chinese restaurants or other small businesses. They may start working at the Chinese restaurant, not making much money, and then get offered to go to the massage parlors where they’re shown they can make quite a bit of money compared to being a person at the restaurant,” Jones said.
According to Frye, the Sheriff’s Office does not believe the illicit operations at Oasis Spa is connected with other businesses in Sidney.
A key component with many illicit massage parlor operations is that the victims working there will live in the massage parlor and will not leave the business, as a result. Jones said that this was the case with the woman they found working at the Oasis Spa. This was a key component in serving the search warrant.
“Doing surveillance, I was never able to find somebody reporting to work or leaving after work. I felt that that portion of it was true, that there was possibly an employee or two — we only found one — that was living in the establishment,” Jones said.
Additionally, Jones said that The Oasis Spa was listed on illicit websites that people would go to looking for specific services.
No arrests have been made at this time. In serving the search warrant, Frye said that investigators found a man in the business soliciting illicit services; the man had been questioned and released, with no charges made. The identity of the man has not been released at this time, though Frye said that the websites advertising illicit services were found on the man’s phone.
“From where he lives and the state that he was in when we got there, we definitely believe (illicit services) were going on,” Frye said.
Frye added that Sidney Fire and Emergency Services and Sidney Planning and Zoning worked alongside the Sheriff’s Office to close the business down due to the illicit practices, as well as the woman living inside the business, which is a violation of the city’s zoning and fire code.
The Sheriff’s Office also worked alongside two sets of Chinese interpreters — one to ask the woman personal questions and make sure she had a safe place to go, and one that investigators worked with to question her regarding the business and practices taking place. The woman will be taken to East Brunswick, New Jersey.
“Our concern was, we didn’t know if she was part of a human trafficking ring and she was being forced to be there. We talked to the first set of interpreters a couple of different times to make sure that she wasn’t going back into some trafficking trade, and she was going home,” Frye said. “That was our main concern with getting this stopped.”
Frye said that moving forward, the hope is that the Oasis Spa does not reopen. The business is closed at this time and was told not to reopen, and the Sheriff’s Office is continuing the investigation on the allegations related to sex trafficking and human trafficking.
“Hopefully we’ve gotten rid of this business in Shelby County and Sidney, and we won’t have any more like it,” Frye said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.