Cops raided 12 southern Brooklyn spas and arrested 19 people on July 10 for an array of charges including prostitution.
Authorities noted that the businesses — five in Bay Ridge, six in Dyker Heights, one in Bensonhurst — had rubbed some residents the wrong way for months, despite presenting themselves as legitimate relaxation therapy centers.
Of those in custody, authorities identified three as spa owners, and the remainder as workers and managers. Charges range from prostitution to violations of New York State Worker’s Compensation law, to practicing massage without a license. Buildings Department officials said that all of the structures housing the spas were in dilapidated and even dangerous condition. Police did not arrest any of the spas’ landlords or customers.
“Though these operations went to considerable lengths to disguise their true nature, it was evident to residents that illicit activities were taking place,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.
Law enforcement officials said that the high concentration of massage parlors in a small section of southern Brooklyn — nearly 20 in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights alone — was inherently suspicious.
“We know people in Bay Ridge have back pain, but we don’t think that’s enough to sustain 19 massage parlors,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Hynes declined to comment on why so many spas had opened in the area, but a police source said the masseuses had merely obeyed the law of supply and demand.
“They went where the customers are,” the New York Police Department insider said.
Brooklyn’s top lawman said his office was looking into whether any of the accused were victims of human trafficking, being manipulated or held against their will. He also raised the possibility that a single organization secretly ran all of the spas, since the women in custody all gave nearly identical stories of having a child in Asia they needed to support.
“There is a strong suspicion this was under central control,” said Hynes.
Among the supposedly dirty dozen were Dream Bodywork on 99th Street near the corner of Fourth Avenue, and Jia Li Spa on Fort Hamilton Parkway between 71st and 72nd streets — which reportedly had raised neighbors’ suspicions. Hynes noted that all 12 of the suspicious spas had placed innuendo-laden promotions for “sexy girls” with an “amazing touch” on seedy sites like Backpage.com and Craigslist.com.