Yakima Police Close 6 Asian Massage Parlors, Arrest 6
Yakima police shut down six Asian massage parlors Saturday afternoon and arrested six people on suspicion of prostitution and practicing without a license.
Yakima police Lt. Nolan Wentz said the operation involved 30 officers from Yakima, the state Department of Health and U.S. Homeland Security. Undercover police officers were used to solicit sex acts for money, which Wentz said suspects at two of the businesses agreed to perform.
The arrests were made before the acts could be carried out, Wentz said.
He said residents notified police of suspicious activity at the businesses several times in recent months.
“It’s something we’ve been looking at and trying to come up with plans for months,” Wentz said.
Wentz said Homeland Security provided a Chinese interpreter to deal with the suspects, who spoke little or no English.
The businesses were Far East Spa at 1517 Summitview Ave.; Sunshine Massage at 901 W. Yakima Ave.; Oriental Spa at 707 N. First St.; Asian Massage at 1111 N. First St.; Lavender Spa at 4809 Tieton Drive; and Asian Foot Massage at 1102 W. Lincoln Ave.
Wentz said he expects most of the six people arrested to be charged with practicing without a massage practitioner’s license, which is a gross misdemeanor on the first offense. He couldn’t immediately say how many would be charged with prostitution, a simple misdemeanor.
Five of the suspects were being held in the Yakima County jail Saturday night. A sixth was released because she has close ties to the area, Wentz said.
“The only time we book people is if we think they’re going to disappear on us,” he said.
Five of the suspects are female and one is a male, Wentz said.
Wentz said the city will pursue further action to keep the businesses closed permanently through code enforcement.
At least one complaint was made against Far East Spa in July of last year, according to police records. A male resident told police that he went to the establishment for a massage and a young Asian woman offered to perform sex acts for money.
The original owner of Far East Spa, Xiao Wei Xie, later opened a spa in Wenatchee that was raided by police in April of this year. Several employees there were arrested on suspicion of practicing without a license, and an investigation by the Wenatchee Police Department is ongoing.
All six massage parlors opened in Yakima within the last year and a half, according to business license records.
John Silverstein, owner of Lavender Spa, said in a telephone interview that he was out of town Saturday and did not know the details of what happened at his business.
“We’re not in the business of erotic massage,” Silverstein said.
Silverstein said he did not know if anyone was working unlicensed at his spa.
Wentz did not say at which businesses the prostitution arrests were made. Police plan to release more details Monday, Wentz said.
AMTA-WA Chapter President sent a thank you letter to Yakima Chief of Police Dominic Rizzi, Jr. and Lt. Nolan Wentz. Also Thanked were the WA Department of Health, Office of Investigations and Inspections, Don Painter Chief Investigator.