This likely will be the first of many hearings in these cases, which were brought jointly by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. ---- Previous report from July 21: Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, two assistant attorneys general, and Greene County's prosecuting attorney were in court on Friday morning seeking a temporary restraining order against six of the 13 businesses targeted by raids around Springfield looking for evidence of human trafficking and prostitution. They are the six businesses against whom investigators believe they had enough evidence to seek the order.
Prosecutors told Greene County Circuit Judge Michael Cordonnier that investigators found evidence of illegal sexual activity at all 13 businesses and at least one of them admitted to prostitution taking place. Investigators also reported they spoke with some customers who admitted to engaging in sexual activity at the businesses. Investigators believe the masseuses are victims of human trafficking from East Asia. Hawley said investigators believe some masseuses were being forced to live in the businesses. They took a number of women to a local shelter, where they will receive counseling and other victim services. One of three people listed as owners of Angel Massage took the stand in court. She admitted to engaging in sexual activity but only one time, saying she had feelings for the person and knew it was wrong. She had to have a translator because she speaks Chinese. Another of the owners of Angel Massage was in court with her husband, who denies his wife was involved in any illegal activity. The judge granted a temporary 10-day restraining order barring the businesses from operating illegally.
Hawley says this is an active and ongoing investigation. “We have every reason to believe there are businesses of this nature around the state. I mean, we know that to be true, and we have active investigations in other places in the state,” he said. The next hearing for these six businesses is now scheduled for July 28. ---- Previous report from July 25: Some Asian massage parlors raided in Springfield are still open for business. We found at least two open on Tuesday while prosecutors continue their investigation that could shut them down for good. Even without felony charges filed that would close them all down, the raids were still a win. Authorities say they rescued 10 victims, counseled them, and they will soon be living a better life. Investigators believe the owners of the Asian massage parlors in Springfield forced employees to perform sexual services that they didn't want to do -- and many were living inside the businesses. "They were here until, like, very late," said neighboring business owner Kristina Yelisey. "So I was, like, maybe they sleep over here." The business owner next door was right. "In the back, they hung their laundry and I was, like, that's a little suspicious for me," said Yelisey. Phoenix Massage on East Republic is just one parlor that was still operating on Tuesday. Eventually, the businesses might be closed down altogether. "I certainly anticipate more serious charges to come," said Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson. "We are working, but we do not have a timetable." Patterson says there's much more evidence to pore over. Either way, those passionate about eradicating trafficking say the raid is a win. "I'm not at all surprised that it has happened here," said Dr. Herrington founded Stand Against Trafficking in 2012. You will see the organization's ads in magazines in every hotel in town. "There are cases of teens being trafficked even while they are still living at home," said Herrington. "We get cases of domestic trafficking as well." She says sex trafficking doesn't always look like an international victim at a parlor. It's a common domestic problem, even in rural America.
"A young girl said, ‘I was trafficked and I never left my city,’" said Herrington. "The parents just think they are spending the night with a friend but actually they are being prostituted out. People will go onto social media and pretend they are a modeling agency or something like that." The raids last week turned up about 10 victims. They were taken in by an agency that provided food, clothing, shelter, and counseling. The agency will get them back where they need to go. Herrington says it's an issue of supply and demand. As long as men are willing to buy sexual services, other businesses likely will pop up in their place. ---- News release on July 21: Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson announced nine massage parlor operators face misdemeanor charges of operating a massage business without the proper state license. Patterson says charges represent the next step in the ongoing collaborative efforts to close the businesses involved in the human trafficking investigation. Arrest warrants issued for each of the defendants have bond set at $1,000.
A condition of the bond is the defendants not operate or be on the premises of a massage business. Yunying Yang, Asian, female, DOB: 1/18/1982, operating Shui Massage and Spa, 520 W. Fuying Li, Asian, female, 8/1/1980, operating Chi Spa, 2971 E. Daquiong Wang, Asian, female, DOB: 3/28/1980, operating Golden Massage, 4728 S.