Vancouver massage parlor investigated

Police trying to determine if it is a front for illegal brothel

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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Vancouver police are investigating whether a massage parlor in the Arnada neighborhood may be a front for an illegal brothel.

Police served a search warrant Tuesday on a house at 500 E. 17th St., which is advertised as offering massage services on two sexually oriented websites.

Since the occupants of the house moved in, neighbors said they have suspected that the house was being used for prostitution, according to a search warrant affidavit.

At least one of them contacted police directly to report the activity.

"It's incredibly troublesome to me to see so many men pull up in front of my house to enter this perverse massage parlor, only to leave less than 30 minutes later," neighbor Kimberly Stapleton wrote in an email message March 8 to police. "I witnessed one man zipping up his fly as he was leaving, and they all have such shameful and guilty looks on their faces."

Neighbors, including employees of a nearby law office, reported that more than 30 men visited the house daily, and most are "middle age white men, well dressed in expensive cars," according to the affidavit by Vancouver police Detective Tom Topaum.

"The door opens from inside as they walk up the stairs like someone is waiting inside," said Caitlin Dennis, a legal assistant in the nearby law office, according to the affidavit.

Quinn Posner, an attorney at the nearby law office, said on one occasion, he observed a younger white man leave the residence.

"He saw me watching him and ducked his head, covered his face with his hand and hat, got into his vehicle and aggressively sped away," Posner told police, according to the affidavit. "It was clear he wanted to get away from us."

There are no signs outside the house advertising it as a business, but the business has a business application for "Magic Massage" on file with the city of Vancouver, Topaum wrote. Jing Mei He and Gui Lisi were listed as the business owners, according to the affidavit. However, the business doesn't have a home occupancy permit as required by municipal code, Topaum said.

The business is advertised online as "Magic Massage" and "Asian Massage." One visitor who reviewed the parlor's services online described receiving sexual stimulation during his massage.

Vancouver police Cpl. Wally Stefan called the number for Magic Massage listed online and made an appointment for between 3 and 3:15 p.m. March 26, according to court records. He visited the residence and was greeted by a woman in her late 20s. He discussed what services would be offered, and the woman said she would give him a massage and a sexual service, according to the affidavit. She said that $50 goes to the house, and the tip would go to her, the affidavit says.

The search warrant authorized police to search personal property to confirm the identity of employees and the person who controls the residence and owns the massage parlor. They also were authorized to search business records, personal records, photographs, electronic devices and other evidence found in any room of the house, outbuildings, trash containers and on the grounds of the property.

Police also served a search warrant on another massage business at 218 W. 13th St. in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday.

In that case, investigators said they were looking into forgery allegations related to licensing documents of massage therapists at Nancy's Studio massage parlor.

People who walked by the business had also complained about possible illegal activity and said they didn't believe the massage therapists were properly licensed, police said.

A business at that address appears on a sexually oriented website that contains client reviews detailing sexual services allegedly provided for "tips."

No arrests had been made in connection with either of Tuesday's searches, said Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp.