CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – Several people in the New River Valley are breathing a sigh of relief tonight after police shut down three corrupt massage parlors in Christiansburg following an undercover operation.
Five people have been arrested on multiple charges, including prostitution.
As the owner at “Relax Blacksburg” for the last six years, Melissa Markis says she knows firsthand the time and effort it takes to run a reputable massage business.
“Massage therapists have had a long, difficult journey to be seen as serious professionals in health care,” Markis says.
It’s why Wednesday’s news of police executing search warrants at the Sunshine Spa, Oasis Day Spa and Spring Spa, as a result of a three-month investigation, hits so close to home.
“This type of criminal behavior not only sets back the massage profession as a whole, but it makes it more confusing and concerning for those who are looking to find legitimate massage services,” she says.
Others like J.R. Linkous have worked next to these parlors for years.
“I always watched people come in and out,” Linkous says.
He adds the corruption has been the rumor mill of the town for just as long.
“Years later, here it happened and they got busted,” he says. “What we thought was making a joke, became reality. It’s sad.”
All three spas where police executed warrants have had their business licenses suspended and are no longer allowed to operate in Christiansburg.
Police say they launched the investigation after receiving complaints from people about illicit sexual activity happening at these establishments. The Christiansburg Police Department’s Vice Unit launched the undercover operation where officers bought massage services advertised by these businesses.
Each time, during the legitimate massage, the officers, without asking for anything else, were offered sexual services in exchange for an additional fee.
To make sure that this behavior wasn’t the act of an individual employee, these officers visited these establishments multiple times and said that each time, they received similar offers to sexual services.
In announcing the arrest made Wednesday, the police department made it clear that no officers ever partook in any of the services being offered.
Police charged the following five people with the following misdemeanors:
- Qilin Cai, 47, of Vinton - Operating a bawdy place
- Youmei Yang, 43, of Christiansburg - Sexual battery, prostitution and operating a bawdy place
- Hongling Zheng, 54, of Christiansburg - Sexual battery, prostitution and operating a bawdy place
- Yumin Tang, 56, of Christiansburg - Operating a bawdy place
- Xeuming Sun, 57, of Christiansburg - Operating a bawdy place and operating a massage parlor with no massage therapy license
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Radford City Police Department and the United States Department of Homeland Security assisted Christiansburg police with this investigation.
Now, police are working to determine if what was happening at these businesses has any connection to sex trafficking or other businesses in the area.
“The Christiansburg Police Department recognizes that while activity like this is at times thought of as a ‘victimless crime’ that is far from the truth. These businesses are often linked to sex trafficking and their continued operation facilitates the victimization of many vulnerable members of society, often including those who seek to immigrate to this country in search of a better life but instead find themselves forced into a life of sexual servitude. For those reasons, we are committed to thoroughly investigating and working with our Commonwealth’s Attorney to prosecute crimes of this nature,” said Assistant Police Chief Maj. Chris Ramsey.