BOYNTON SPA INVESTIGATIONS NET THREE ARRESTS, TWO FOR PROSTITUTION
September 11, 2019
BOYNTON BEACH — An open investigation into potentially illegal happenings at massage parlors in Boynton Beach has led to the arrests of three women, police records show.
Two of the women, Yanmei Shi, 45, and Junying Wang, 46, were arrested last month on charges of offering to commit prostitution. Undercover officers say the women, who own separate spas in neighboring shopping plazas along East Ocean Avenue, offered to perform sex acts on them in exchange for money.
The third woman, 49-year-old Jun Chen, is accused of working at a spa on South Federal Highway without a valid license. In police records, the spa is referred to as Golden Sunflower. Online it's called Garden Sunflower Spa, and in state business records, it's listed as Golden Sunflowers Spa.
Police did not specify how, if at all, the spas are related, beyond saying that investigators are looking into numerous allegations of prostitution and possibly even human trafficking happening at spas in the city.
Investigators would not say how many other business they are looking into.
None of the three women arrested last month faces human trafficking-related charges. Records list each woman as an immigrant from China.
All have been released from the Palm Beach County Jail on cash bonds. Shi of Boynton Beach and Wang of Hollywood each posted $250 bond for their release Aug. 24, the day after their arrests, and Chen of Cooper City posted a $4,500 cash bond and was released Aug, 28, the day after her arrest.
The arrests come about six months after Jupiter police busted the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, arresting its managers and charging 25 customers, including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, of soliciting sex acts there.
As in the Boynton Beach cases, investigators alleged that the Jupiter spa was tied to a larger human trafficking ring, though the allegations have not led to charges.
Many of the cases tied to that investigation have been stalled as an appellate court determines whether the state's key evidence against the "johns," video obtained through a sneak-and-peek warrant, can be submitted as evidence.
Boynton Beach police took a different approach in investigating its city's spas and instead sent undercover officers in for massages.
At 1:30 p.m. Aug. 23, undercover officers walked into the Golden Sunflowers, Serenity Asian Massage and Health Spa Ocean Ave.
Police went to Golden Sunflowers after the Florida Department of Health cited it in July for appearing to be a place of residence. An investigator noticed "large quantities of bedding linens, blankets, pillows, personal hygiene items and clothing ... which raises concerns that the business is also involved in human trafficking," police wrote in Chen's arrest report.
The officer at Golden Sunflowers received a 30-minute massage "without incident," records state, but when detectives came in after the massage, Chen couldn't provide a proper massage license. She was arrested Aug. 27.
An employee who answered the phone Monday said Chen no longer works at the spa and now is in New York. The staff member declined to speak further about the allegations.
Records don't specify why officers went to Health Spa Ocean Ave or Serenity Asian Massage, beyond broadly referencing citizen complaints.
However, when a reporter spoke with an employee of a business neighboring Health Spa in March, he said it appeared women lived at the spa.
"As soon as I saw the Jupiter bust, I thought, 'Well, when the hell are they going to bust this place?' " the neighbor said.
Reportedly, Wang inappropriately touched the undercover officer who visited last month when the officer asked for a "full-body massage."
Wang, the owner of Health Spa, was not available to be reached for comment last month. A woman who answered the telephone at the business said the spa remains open but referred additional questions to an unnamed manager, who she said was unavailable.
Her attorney, Daniel Rose, declined to comment on the case because it remains open.
At Shi's business, Serenity Asian Massage, on East Ocean Avenue, an undercover officer reported being massaged for about 15 minutes before Shi asked if he wanted something more.
Something more sexual? the officer asked.
Yes, she reportedly replied.
Shi said during an interview last month that the incident was a misunderstanding. She motioned toward the man's "belly," she said, not toward his genitals as implied in the arrest report.
She vehemently denied any allegations of human trafficking involving her spa, which she said has been a reputable business for years.
Shi's attorney, Robert Norvell, said human trafficking appears to be the new "buzz word" in police investigations.
"This is not trafficking," Norvell said during an interview last month. "Are they really gonna bark up this human trafficking tree again?"
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