Two charged with human trafficking in alleged prostitution at Lawrence massage parlor
A Lawrence man and woman arrested Tuesday evening on suspicion of crimes related to prostitution at a local massage parlor were charged Thursday in Douglas County District Court with multiple felonies, including aggravated human trafficking.
Chen Li, 50, of Lawrence, was charged with one count of aggravated human trafficking and one count of promoting the sale of sexual relations, and 45-year-old Guihong Xiao, of Lawrence, was charged with two counts of aggravated human trafficking, one count of promoting the sale of sexual relations and one count of misdemeanor selling sexual relations.
The charges come after Lawrence police officers conducted search warrants on Spring Massage, 600 Lawrence Ave., and a Lawrence residence Tuesday “seeking additional evidence related to sexual crimes alleged to have occurred at the massage parlor,” said Lawrence police spokesman Sgt. Trent McKinley. Xiao and Li were arrested later that day.
Charging documents allege that from Feb. 6 to April 28, Li benefitted financially from participating in the “recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of” a woman used for involuntary sexual services, resulting in the trafficking charge.
Xiao is accused of “harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining” two different women — one from Feb. 6 to April 28 and another from April 24 to April 28 — for the use of forced sexual services, according to charging documents. Xiao is also alleged to have offered or performed sexual services for pay on Jan. 6.
Though neither McKinley nor Simpson could comment on whether Li and Xiao own Spring Massage, charging documents accuse Li and Xiao of owning or maintaining a property “where sexual relations are being sold or offered for sale.”
Spring Massage, at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Sixth Street, is listed on a number of online “erotic massage” websites. Multiple online postings list the price for an hour-long service at Spring Massage as $60, cash only. Listed among witnesses in the charging documents are the records custodians of two such websites, backpage.com and a website whose name includes a sexually explicit phrase.
McKinley said Wednesday that the searches and arrests were the culmination of a joint investigation with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office that had been underway for several months.
In 2013, Li and Xiao pleaded no contest to charges of promoting prostitution after a police raid on two massage businesses in Bonner Springs, according to municipal court records. A Bonner Springs municipal court judge found Li and Xiao guilty, and both were required to pay a $600 fine and court costs. They did not receive jail sentences because the crimes were city misdemeanor offenses, a Bonner Springs municipal court employee told the Journal-World.
Simpson told Douglas County Judge Pro Tem James George that both defendants are “extreme flight risks” because Li and Xiao are Chinese citizens unlawfully in the country, have no ties to Douglas County aside from the massage parlor, $20,000 in cash was found at the residence where they were arrested and each have a former conviction of promoting prostitution.
George set bond at $500,000 for both defendants. If they post bail, Li and Xiao will have to submit to GPS monitoring.
At her first appearance Thursday, Xiao asked through a Mandarin interpreter why her bond was “so high” and said she “did not agree” to the crimes alleged. Li remained silent, allowing his attorney to speak on his behalf.
If found guilty of the charges, Li and Xiao could face up to 653 months in prison for each count of aggravated human trafficking and 17 months in prison for each count of promoting the sale of sexual relations, George said. If convicted of her selling sexual relations charge, Xiao would face a six-month sentence and as much as a $1,000 fine.
Li and Xiao remain in the Douglas County Jail on their $500,000 bonds. Xiao will make her next court appearance Monday, and Li is scheduled to appear next on May 18.