Police have arrested the owner of two Livermore massage parlors, where they allege Chinese immigrants believing they had come to the United States to live the American dream were forced to work as prostitutes to pay off debt.
The owner, Anna Lingling Huang, 51, and her boyfriend, Brian Scott Jones, 50, were arrested Dec. 4 at their Livermore home, police said.
Police allege Huang’s businesses – Elite Foot and Back, 122 S. Vasco Road, and Paradise City Foot and Back, 51 Wright Brothers Ave. – served as fronts for prostitution, pimping, pandering, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
About 25 women rescued during the year-long case were provided with social services and other assistance, Livermore police Officer Taylor Burruss said. The women were not arrested for individual illegal sex acts.
“The goal of our investigation was to hit the top,” Burruss said. “We believe that predominantly women were being brought over from China and they were promised the American dream, and to be able to get citizenship. Once they come into the country, they are being told they have a debt to pay.”
That debt, Burruss said, was to be paid through prostitution with the threat that their families in China could be harmed if they did not comply.
“These women don’t know our laws. They don’t know our criminal justice system,” Burruss said.
Livermore detectives opened an investigation in 2018 when they received complaints about possibly shady activity at the massage parlors. The complaints suggested possible prostitution activity because of heavy traffic coming and going from the locations, which had signs in the windows offering massages for $35, Burruss said.
A detective looking into the complaints conducted several undercover operations, which resulted in suspicions about “sexual exploitation.” Detectives then conducted hundreds of hours of surveillance and more undercover operations.
The investigations, including the service of more than 25 search warrants, identified Huang and Jones as “key players in the massage businesses.” Investigators suspect Huang was involved in commercial sexual exploitation and money laundering. Jones was said to be complicit in the crimes, in addition to tax evasion, police said.
Alameda County prosecutors charged Huang with 10 counts, including conspiracy, money laundering, pimping and pandering. An East County Hall of Justice judge set Huang’s bail at $1.5 million and postponed her arraignment to Dec. 19, jail records show.
Jones, held on $440,000 bail, was charged with conspiracy, pimping, filing a false tax return and other offenses.
Huang also owns two massage parlors in Tracy and another in Brentwood.
Livermore police are still investigating, conducting interviews and following up on additional evidence.
Police reports will be forwarded to each of the city’s business licensing departments for review. Reports will be sent to the California State Board of Massage, which could revoke the business licenses, Burruss said.
Also involved in the investigation were the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, and the Brentwood, Tracy, Pleasanton and Hayward police departments.
Police asked anyone with information about the case to contact detectives at 925-371-4790.