Crime

Massage parlors trafficked in sex, offered menu of acts from $40 to $400, police say

After a seven-month sting, police charged Liufang Wang, 38, with prostitution and deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution.
After a seven-month sting, police charged Liufang Wang, 38, with prostitution and deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution.

A seven-month sting run by Miami Beach detectives has shuttered four massage parlors, led to three arrests and uncovered what authorities say was a human trafficking operation that forced two women from China to provide sex for money.

Investigators visited the four businesses at least a dozen times between February and May according to arrest affidavits and several times were offered various sex acts and “happy endings” for between $40 and $400.

Police said the women were paid a small percentage for each sex act, but made very little money because they were also charged $30 a day for room and board at the massage parlors. The women are now working with victim advocates, police said.

“There were three arrests in four places. But more importantly, we identified two victims of human trafficking,” said Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez. “This is a tremendous success.”

Prosecutors charged Mi Cha Jones, 62, with two counts of human trafficking and a single count of making money through prostitution. Liufang Wang, 38, was charged with prostitution and profiting off prostitution. Qun Chen, 48, also was arrested and charged with prostitution.

Wang and Jones, owner of one club, were still at the Turner Guilford Knight correctional center on Monday. Chen had been released. It wasn’t clear if they had attorneys.

Friday night, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales lashed out at the massage parlor operators, saying “we will not tolerate any sort of illegal operations that present an actual threat to the quality of life and safety of our community.”

The four massage parlors that had permits revoked ran operations from South Beach to the city’s north end. They included Jee-Jee, at 733 Fifth St.; Lu Lu, at 7441 Collins Ave.; Shanghai, at 1106 Normandy Dr.; and Jade, at 1010 71st St.

Miami Beach has shut down four massage parlors where police believe women may have been forced into sex work.

Attacking human trafficking and the illicit sex trade have been campaign issues for both Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

In April, Fernandez Rundle’s office recorded a victory when a judge sentenced two Hungarian men to prison for 30 years for human trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering. Prosecutors argued successfully that Gabor Acs and Viktor Berki met lured two victims from Hungary through a website called GayRomeo.com and attracted a third victim through Facebook.

The victims claimed they were flown to New York City to work in what they believed was a legal business in the United States. But once in New York and Miami, the men in their early 20s said they were forced to live in cramped conditions while performing sex acts around the clock, given little food and threatened with violence.

Friday’s sting on Miami Beach, which was in collaboration with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, began in early February at the Shanghai massage parlor when two cops working undercover were escorted into separate rooms, told to undress and were offered sex for $50, police said.

A week later, according to police, an anonymous caller told the story of a woman he met in California, had sex with and fell in love with. He said the woman he knew as “Linda” spoke only Chinese, but that they communicated through a Chinese prostitution chat room called Wechat.

Police said they found Linda a month later in March. When they approached her, police said, she offered a cornucopia of sex from prices between $50 to $150. Several times, according to police, the woman offered “a happy ending.”

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