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6 people arrested for reportedly running human trafficking, prostitution ring

(The exterior of the Little Rainbow Massage Parlor in Orem. The "Open" sign was still on as it was being raided. Credit: Paul Nelson)

AMERICAN FORK, Utah – An alleged prostitution and human trafficking ring is broken in Utah County. Police raided four massage parlors and arrested six people after workers reportedly offered sexual favors for money.

Police say the investigation started in September after they received an anonymous tip about Sunflower Massage in American Fork. Arrest records say the tipster was able to find the parlor on online maps that list massage parlors that offer sexual favors. 

They state the masseuse will touch people inappropriately and if the customer doesn’t complain, the woman will offer to do more.

American Fork Police Lieutenant Josh Christensen said they sent undercover officers to the parlor shortly after that complaint.

“They stopped several customers leaving the store and did interviews with them,” Christensen said. “They were able to determine that there was, indeed, prostitution type activities going on.”

After searching deeper into business licenses, officers learned Sunflower Massage was connected to Magic Massage in American Fork along with Small Rainbow and Relax Wood in Orem.  Christensen said they partnered with other police agencies to investigate, and undercover officers were sent to those parlors.  He said their investigators were all asked if they wanted more than just a simple massage.

“Obviously, the officers stopped it at that point, but, in each case, the officer was solicited to participate in a prostitution-type of activity,” he said.

(Top, left to right… Joseph Ferreri, Xiao Ling Wang, Ju Ying Wang. Bottom, left to right… Yan Tomney, Jun Yan Li, Yue Ming. Credit: Utah County Jail)

All four parlors were raided on Thursday, and six people were taken into custody.  They include: 

  • Wang, Ju Ying for two counts of prostitution and one count of pattern of unlawful activity.
  • Li, Jun Yan for two counts prostitution, one count of human trafficking, aiding prostitution and pattern of unlawful activity.
  • Ming, Yue for one count prostitution, money laundering, pattern of unlawful activity and unlawful conduct.
  • Wang, Xiao Ling for one count prostitution, human trafficking, money laundering, aiding prostitution and pattern of unlawful activity.
  • Tomney, Yan for one count prostitution, money laundering, unlawful conduct and pattern of unlawful activity.

Along with the four massage parlors, police also searched a home in Lindon.

One man, Joseph Ferreri, was booked for aiding prostitution and pattern of unlawful activity.  Police believe he drove the women back and forth between the Lindon home and the businesses even though the women were rarely allowed to leave the parlors.

“The majority of individuals involved in this type this activity lived on site at the parlor,” Christensen said. “Or they were transported back and forth to one single residence.”

During their raids, police found one woman who they believe is a victim of trafficking and was afraid to reach out for help. Christensen said she was taken to get the help she needs.

“She was brought from another country to here,” he said. “She didn’t know where she was.  She doesn’t know anybody and she doesn’t speak our language but was, basically, told to work.”

Arrest records report many of the women who work at parlors like this are essentially trapped into doing it. The operators reportedly threaten to tell their families back home what they’re doing if they ever stop soliciting sexual favors from their clients. 

Christensen also said these parlors are harder to investigate than they appear to be, since the managers frequently change the names of their businesses to apply for different licenses.  That’s a common tactic for criminal organizations.