Two California-based massage parlors, where employees were being held against their will and forced to conduct indecent acts on clients for money, were raided by police on Wednesday. The owners are facing charges of pimping, prostitution, and human trafficking, among other allegations.
The joint raids were carried out in Auburn and Nevada City. Owner Julie Feng and her boyfriend Philip Hudson were both arrested for pimping, pandering, and conspiracy, according to News10. Feng additionally faces charges of human trafficking.
“Basically, it’s modern slavery,” said local business owner Will Bell. “‘Cause you’re enslaving somebody by manipulation and through force.”
Other business owners were shocked to find out what had been going on. “(It was) just about massage… I don’t see anything going on because when we went there (it was) mostly women,” said Ramjum Eitel to News10. She is the owner of Royal Thai Restaurant located next door to one of the two massage parlors.
An investigation into the massage parlors was initiated in January after complaints by businesses in the area, notes News10. After further investigation, police discovered that Feng, who was the only individual who seemed to have an actual license to practice massage at either location, had been using a fraudulent massage license.
Placer Special Investigation Unit commander William Olson said, “The passports and everything were definitely from another country,” indicating that the allegedly enslaved and forced sex workers were foreign nationals. “The actual victims in this are the actual employees that are basically being held against their will, or they’re being forced into doing acts that they wouldn’t ordinarily do for money,” Olson said.
Feng and Hudson were booked at the Placer County Jail and later released on bail. If convicted, the criminal duo could face years in prison.
In June of this year, a Los Angeles Police Department officer was forced to resign and will face a 180-day jail sentence for sexually assaulting three female masseuses while on duty. Part of an officer’s responsibility as a law enforcement official at the department’s Commission Investigation Division was to check on the business permits of massage parlors.
In November of last year, two seasoned LAPD officers came under investigation for allegedly forcing four women to commit indecent sexual acts on them while threatening jail time if they refused, over the course of four years.