BRACEVILLE - One of the remaining massage parlors in Trumbull County was raided by police early Thursday, and officials say they suspect the spa was a front for prostitution and possibly human trafficking, much like the eight Warren spas raided last month.
Investigators are trying to determine if any of the five employees found inside the Four Seasons Health Spa, 4300 state Route 5, were sex trafficking victims. Officers said three bedrooms were found inside the spa, including one with three twin beds, each assigned to one of the employees found inside the spa Tuesday.
Officers from the part-time Braceville police department, which consists of a chief and about nine part-time officers, with help from Fowler's canine officer, conducted the raid at 10 a.m.
Police Chief William Garro said when officers entered the building, a customer and employee were engaged in sex acts. Another customer was also found inside the building. The two men, whose license plates were from New York and New Jersey, were questioned until police released them at about 11:40 a.m. Police did not release their names because they were uncharged suspects.
One woman identified as Kyung Hee Lee, was arrested on prostitution charges. She was led from the spa by police wearing a loose gray hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans.
Garro said later that investigators had determined that the woman was not an American citizen. The woman was being held in the Trumbull County Jail without bond, and Garro said he expected immigration officials to pick her up Thursday morning.
The woman had contained a driver's license from Washington state identifying her as Lee, but police questioned its validity because it listed Lee as age 52, but officers said she appeared to be in her 20s.
More charges could be filed after police and the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office analyze the evidence seized. Garro also said computers seized from the spa would be sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation for forensic analysis.
Braceville police Sgt. Josh Rudesill said officers found used condoms wrapped in tinfoil throughout the building and in one of the employee's vehicles. He said they also found condoms hidden inside fake shaving cream canisters.
Officers also seized several televisions, surveillance equipment, cash, computers and ledgers from the spa, among other items. The search inventory is expected to be filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Thursday. The search warrant affidavit, which is used to present evidence to a judge for a search warrant, also was unavailable Tuesday.
Garro said five employees, including the business' manager, were inside the building. He said they are trying to determine if any of them are sex trafficking victims. He said at least two employees, including Lee, told police they worked at the spa on their own terms and could leave and return as they pleased.
Both women's vehicles, parked in front of the spa, were towed. Rudesill said inside the cars officers found two hidden compartments under the front driver and passenger seats with wads of cash. He said they also found cigarette boxes filled with condoms.
The spa has been in business for at least a decade, Garro estimated.
The investigation sparked about three weeks ago when officers pulled over a suspected drug trafficker who told police he had left Four Seasons where he paid money for sex, officers said.
From that point, Garro said, his officers conducted surveillance on the spa to gain information about the customers, some of whom cooperated in the case.
"This is a tough crime to prove," Garro said. "I don't have the man power to do this. You can't get tunnel vision; everything else doesn't disappear. We were lucky enough to develop some timely information and develop it quickly."
Township trustee Todd Brewster said he was unaware of the case and the raid early Monday.
"Certainly if there is any illegal activity there regardless of what it is, we are glad that's being investigated," he said.
During a separate recent BCI investigation into the eight Warren spas, agents talked to a Brecksville man who told them he frequented the Four Seasons Spa.
The search warrant affidavit said Nicholas O. Rodzianko told investigators he frequented several of the massage parlors in Warren and the Four Seasons Spa throughout the past decade. He said he typically paid $40 to a greeter and paid another fee for sex acts.
Garro said he was aware of the affidavit but that he did not need to use that in his case.
There are now only three remaining spas that have not been raided in the last month: Warren's Tiger Spa and Sunny Spa and Niles' Susi Kims. Warren officials have said the Tiger Spa recently changed ownership and has not operated yet and that they were unable to build a sufficient case against Sunny Spa.
Garro said the raids against the eight Warren spas, which used hundreds of BCI officers in comparison to his 9-man part-time unit, and clandestine remote controlled cameras instead of Garro's surveillance teams, helped pave the way to show Garro what his office needed to do and to prove.
"The Warren raids did help," he said. "It gave us a good idea of what we needed to seize."