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November 21, 2017 10:15 PM

Part 2: More Than A Massage

Our Eye on KELOLAND investigation has uncovered local massage parlors listed on websites for erotic massage with "happy endings," or on Backpage offering "new Chinese girls with new skills."

Local massage therapists have come forward with their concerns about human trafficking in their business, right under the South Dakota massage therapy board's nose. 

A new report on human trafficking and massage is calling for more regulations and safety protections.  

KELOLAND Investigates pays a visit to some of the massage businesses listed on these questionable websites to try to find out if they're offering "More than a Massage."  

A quick visit to Backpage.com, shows Miracle Massage on Western Ave. advertising, "new Chinese girls with new skills, helping you out," along with pictures of young women. 

Miracle Massage's ad links to Asian Moonlight Relaxing Center, whose ad reads "most comprehensive treatment of essential oils" and "professional nursing." 

Those ads have local licensed massage therapists concerned. 

"We are a health and wellness provider and we do not have pictures on our website of females that work here so people aren't shopping for a massage therapist, so to speak, on our website," Licensed Therapist Healther Payden said. 

A new report on human trafficking in the massage industry calls out a subscription website: Rub Maps. The report says it's a "buyer review board," solely for the review of illicit massage businesses." 

Rub Maps lists several erotic massage parlors in South Dakota.  

The site advertises itself "where fantasy meets reality" and "happy ending erotic massages."  

The top three in Sioux Falls on Rub Maps' list are Miracle Chinese Massage on Western Avenue, Asian Therapeutic Massage and Asian Moonlight Relaxing Center both on 41st St.. 

While posting here isn't proof, it does raise concerns. 

But would a legitimate business advertise on Rub Maps? 

"No, absolutely not--nor Backpage," Licensed Therapist Rebecca Herman said. 

"Whenever we see the mention of new young girls, or whenever we see the mention of coming to town; whenever we see ads that depict females dressed in little to no clothing, those ads certainly grab our attention and those are the ones we also look into," Sgt. Kelvin Masur with Rapid City Police said. 

Rapid City Police looked into ads for massage on these questionable sites in a three-day sting this fall. 

"It's a way for them to get these gentlemen into the room; believing they're not going to be able to be apprehended by law enforcement.  They'll tend to try to use that massage front as an opening where they can take part in prostitution," Masur said. 
 
The latest sting resulted in a prostitution arrest of a 40-year-old woman at her Rapid City home, where police found a massage table and marijuana.

Eight men were arrested after responding to ads for sex on Backpage. 

In August of 2016 a similar police sting involving a Backpage ad resulted in the arrest of a 59-year old Rapid City women for prostitution, practicing massage without a license, and drugs.  

Six men were also arrested for responding to that ad for sex. 

"When we have this sort of stuff taking place in our community and we are unable to stop it--it's very frustrating and it's a constant game-they are always coming up with new and different ways of which they are trying to slide under the radar," Masur said. 

In Sioux Falls an undercover sting in 2014 at Happy Dragon led to an arrest for prostitution. Li Li was charged with prostitution after an undercover officer was propositioned in the business.  

Because these websites are commonly used to advertise illicit business, we wanted to find out why local massage parlors are on them. 

First we headed to Asian Moonlight Relaxing Center.  Inside a woman told Kennecke she didn't speak English and never came out from behind the screen. 

Kennecke: You're advertised on Rub Maps. 
Unidentified woman:  Sorry my boss not here. 
Kennecke: Where is your boss? 
Unidentified woman:  California.  
Kennecke: In California? Your boss is in California?  

Kennecke gave her a business card and asked her boss to call KELO-TV, but no one ever did. 

Kennecke: Do you have a massage license?
Unidentified woman: No massage... oil 

While she said they weren't giving massages, police ticketed Asian Moonlight in 2016 for giving massages without a license.  

But even after that, therapist Heather Payden believed the business continued to operate without a license so she went in herself and was able to get a massage at Asian Moonlight. 

"They had no massage licenses displayed; they had no sales tax license displayed and they did not accept sales tax at the end of the massage," Payden said. 

Payden filed a complaint with the South Dakota Massage Therapy Board, which oversees licensing in the state. 

"My complaint to the massage board was dismissed without any further action," Payden said. 

Payden says she doesn't know the reason and we couldn't get any answers either because the board refused to grant an interview.  We were able to confirm with the Department of Revenue that Asian Moonlight does have a sales tax license.  

A few minutes later, KELOLAND Investigates went to a business, with the same owner as Asian Moonlight, Chinese Miracle Massage, just down the street.

"Ma'm--Ma'm?  She came out and just locked the door when she saw us coming up," Kennecke said in the field.

Miracle Massage is currently delinquent in its filings with the South Dakota Secretary of State. 

Our third stop was at Asian Therapeutic Massage. While the woman at the front desk called a manager, a few minutes later a masseuse showed up.  

Kennecke: Are you the massage therapist?  
Yuanfang Zhi: Yes.
Kennecke: Which one of these is you? This one right here? How do you say your name?   
Yuanfang Zhi: Yuanfang Zhi.

KELOLAND News asked about the business' listing on Rub Maps. 

Kennecke: Are you giving erotic massage here? 
Yuanfang Zhi: What's erotic massage? 
Kennecke: Prostitution; sexual favors.
Yuanfang Zhi: No, no, no--just deep tissue and Swedish, no others. 
Kennecke: Why are you listed on here do you know? 
Yuanfang Zhi: I don't know--we never do that one. 

After our visit to Asian Therapeutic Massage, the owners, who live in Worthington, MN did call Kennecke. While they didn't want to go on camera, they tell KELOLAND Investigates they don't offer anything other than a professional massage and they're attempting to get their business off Rub Maps.  

The owners of Asian Therapeutic massage say they’ve considered even changing their name because of the stigma associated with human trafficking and Asian massage parlors.  They also tell KELOALND Investigates they have no idea how they ended up on Rub Maps:

"We don't know who these sites operate and we don't know where they get the information from to put on their website.  I'm assuming they take pictures from outside and just put on website. We have only licensed massage therapists, three of them.  We do not offer anything other than professional massages. If a client request something like that, we tell them we don't do those kinds of things. If the client persists then the massage therapists asks client to leave. We are seeking legal guidance to get our business removed from any sites that say we offer erotic massages." 

-     Alissa & David Schieffer, Owners of Asian Therapeutic Massage 

In 2015, two Asian massage businesses were busted for having employees without a license. 

And in 2016, police cited Asian Moonlight Massage and Wonderful Body Rubs for giving massages without a licensed therapist. Police say they continue to follow-up on complaints and pay surprise visits to massage businesses.  

© 2017 KELOLAND TV. All Rights Reserved.
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