FRESNO, Calif. - After weeks of undercover investigations, Fresno Police have shut down six massage parlors. Police say five of them were fronts for prostitution. Tuesday's sting happened at North First Street and East Dakota Avenue. All six massage parlors are located in the same business park within just steps of each other.
The Fresno Police Vice-Intel Unit led the investigation. Sergeant Curtis Chastain says no other location in Fresno is complained about more than this place of business.
For Sergeant Chastain and his team, the culmination of what he calls Operation Par Six began Tuesday morning.
"This is relating to a series of massage parlors," said Chastain.
Parlors, Chastain says are fronts for houses of prostitution. Dozens of officers met to be briefed and went over evidence of the parlors' advertisements.
"We've shut down two massage parlors here. Two of the massage parlors we've shut down previously, they've opened right back up under new ownership," said Chastain.
Star Massage, Grey Fox Number #1, Jenny's Thai Spa, Tokyo Massage, A-1 Acupressure and Massage, Body Foot Massage are all within steps of each other. Chastain says Body Foot Massage is the only parlor not used for prostitution but was working without a permit. For weeks detectives went undercover as customers at the other five.
"We did 15 of these, three on each one. Every time an undercover went in there, it was strictly for prostitution," said Chastain.
Officers surrounded the business park from every angle sweeping all six parlors. Detectives interviewed women inside to see if any of them are victims of human trafficking.
"If anybody identifies as a victim of human trafficking we'll take that investigation in a different whirl," said Chastain.
Police say at least one woman identified herself as a victim. Advocates of the Central Valley Freedom Coalition were on scene to offer services. Two hours later, authorities made contact with a woman identified as Sophie Zhong. Police say Zhong used to own the parlor now known as Grey Fox #1.
'Sold to somebody else. Now it's somebody else," said Zhong.
Zhong says she's not connected to the business but police say they found evidence determining Zhong is in control of Grey Fox and Tokyo Massage, leading to an arrest.
Police say they're still investigating the owner of the business complex. They say the owner will be served notice and if there are any more signs of prostitution, the whole property could be seized.