Massage parlor busted in Oxford.
OXFORD - Two women were arrested Thursday night for being the proprietors of a local massage parlor allegedly offering sex for a fee. The arrests came after a seven-month investigation by state police and the Worcester District Attorney's office, with the assistance of local police.
Lanyun Ma, 42, and Wei Ma, 22, both of New York, are both charged with trafficking of a person for sexual servitude. The two Chinese-born women were arraigned yesterday in Dudley District Court and each was held on $250,000 bail.
According to state police, the two defendants are not related.
Lanyun Ma and Wei Ma ran the day-to-day operations at the Health and Body Work Center, 2 Fairlawn Ave., where the two women were allegedly offering sexual conduct for a fee, according to state police. The business was shut down Thursday night.
Lanyun Ma, who was wearing a sweater, T-shirt, Hollister sweat pants and sandals during her arraignment, and Wei Ma, who was wearing shorts, flip-flops and a T-shirt with the inscription "Walking with God," were led into Courtroom One in handcuffs and leg shackles. An interpreter translated the proceedings to Mandarin Chinese for the defendants during the arraignment.
District Attorney Courtney Sans said Lanyun Ma and Wei Ma were involved in "sexual exploitation" and are the proprietors in a "house of prostitution." Lanyun Ma, who has been in the United States for four years, has faced prostitution charges in Quincy and New York, while Wei Ma, who has been in the U.S. for three years, has no criminal record, Ms. Sans said.
Ms. Sans also said the Health and Body Work Center advertised online with explicit pictures, a list of certain sex acts provided and customer reviews that make it clear that they are offering "sex for a fee." The Web ads were traced back to the defendants, Ms. Sans said.
On Thursday, troopers conducted motor vehicle stops of customers leaving the massage parlor. Customers admitted that they had visited Health and Body Work Center specifically to receive sexual services for money.
State and local police searched the Health and Body Work Center where they found three Asian women apparently in indentured sexual servitude. An additional patron inside said he had visited the Health and Body Work Center for sexual services.
One alleged victim said she had been brought from China under the ruse of attending college in California. However, she was quickly moved into a massage parlor and put to work performing sex acts.
In December, troopers assigned to the State Police Special Service Section and the State Police Detective Unit attached to the Worcester District Attorney's Office began its investigation after the Oxford Police Department received complaints of an Asian massage parlor offering sex for a fee.
The investigation, involving extensive electronic and physical surveillance, discovered information that gave authorities probable cause to believe that sexual services were being performed at the Health and Body Work Center.
Police also monitored the movements of a target vehicle. Tracking of that vehicle, along with observations of the building, supported their belief that Asian women were being transported to and from the Oxford location.
Investigators noted that the women, whose ages ranged from the 20s to the 50s, never left the building except to be transported off-site.
A search warrant was also conducted at 300 West Main St., Northboro, the location of a business about to be opened by Lanyun Ma and Wei Ma.
During the arraignment, Ms. Sans asked Judge Charles W. Groce III to set bail at $250,000 while Stephanie Lorusso and Erica Tibbets, the court-appointed lawyers for Lanyun Ma and Wei Ma, unsuccessfully lobbied for bail to be set at $5,000.
Despite the two defendants not being indigent, Judge Groce appointed counsel for them.
Judge Groce said because of having stronger ties to New York than here, the "international component" of being from China and living in the United States for a short period of time, the two defendants' "risk of flight is significant," hence the $250,000 bail.
Lanyun Ma and Wei Ma are both scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Sept. 4.
Oxford, Northboro and Southboro police departments and the Massachusetts Department of Professional Licensure assisted with the investigation.
PHOTOG: T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN
CUTLINE: (1) Lanyun Ma, left, and Wei Ma as yesterday's arraignment. (2) The Health and Body Work Center at 2 Fairlawn Ave. in Oxford was under investigation since December.