Second sting since spring under city’s upheld body works ordinance

Second sting since spring under city’s upheld body works ordinance

PAWTUCKET – Even without legal backing, and despite at least one previous police sting, operators of the city’s adult-themed massage parlors have kept on advertising their services, accepting customers despite the threat of officers running through the doors.

Operations at three massage parlors were again busted up over Thanksgiving week, with police arresting 19 people on various charges related to prostitution. Several of those charged were also nabbed in a similar sting at these establishments back in March.

Andrew Spingarn, 64, longtime operator of Pleasant Street Massage Therapy, located on the front side of his Antiquariat Gallery at 37 Taft St., and his wife, Sophia Spingarn, 60, were among those arrested. Andrew Spingarn has long stated to anyone who would listen that there is nothing wrong with the consensual behavior occurring in the establishment.

The city’s tax assessor’s database states that Spingarn has owned the building since 1998.

Owners of the two other buildings raided last week are listed as Middle Street Realty and the Nicholas and Shirley Hindy Trust.

During Thanksgiving week, the Pawtucket Police Department, with help from Homeland Security Investigations, conducted an investigation into possible prostitution at the Far East Spa at 72 East St., Harmony Spa at 11 Benefit St., and Pleasant St. Massage Therapy, 88 Pleasant St.

Representatives for Harmony Spa and Far East Spa sued the city over its body works ordinance in 2017, but ended up dropping the case. The appeal was taken to the R.I. Supreme Court and then dropped by the appellants after the city prevailed in Superior Court in the fall of 2017.

The Pawtucket City Council passed the city’s new “body works services” ordinance on Oct. 19, 2016, after the General Assembly passed enabling legislation earlier in the year requiring any massage parlors that don’t have therapists licensed through the state to get a license from the city. A number of stipulations on appropriate business practices were included.

A Superior Court judge struck down Pawtucket’s first attempt at an ordinance in March of 2016 after deciding that the city didn’t have the authority to enact City Councilor Tim Rudd’s legislation without a law first being passed at the state level. It was Rudd and former Councilor Sandra Cano who really pushed for the laws on massage parlors.

Police ran a similar sting at the establishments in March, resulting in 13 women being arrested.

The latest arrests were the result of numerous complaints from local residents and business owners regarding possible prostitution at the businesses. On Dec. 4, court-ordered search warrants were executed at all three businesses, resulting in the arrest three men and 16 women.

Stelly Sang Ok, 64, of Texas, Yon C. Wood, 62, of New York, Jean Son Derrico, 61, of New York, Jeonsuk Lee, 63, of Connecticut, and the Spingarns, all of Pawtucket, were charged with not having a license for massage therapy and pandering or permitting prostitution.

In Ok Bang, 53, and Jung Mi Lee, 46, both of New York, and Eun Joo Chae, 50, of New Jersey, were charged with prostitution and not having a license for massage therapy.

Gee Yoon Kim, 51, Yeon Sun Jeon, 42, Keum Ran An, 49, Jin Gyu An, 49, Suk Ja Elmore, 53, and Sun Lee Young, 48, all of New York, Hee Young So, 44, of Georgia, and Yun Hee Park, 48, of Texas, were charged with not having a license for massage therapy as an employee.

Aleksandr Ilchemko, 60, of Stoughton, Mass., and George Azar, 55, of Coventry, were charged with procurement of sexual conduct for a fee.

There is also an outstanding arrest warrant for Grace Kwon, 56, of Lincoln, for not having a license for massage therapy required for an employer and pandering or permitting prostitution. Kwon was previously listed as the owner of Harmony Spa.

All of those arrested were arraigned in Sixth District Court.

All three of the targeted massage parlors failed to get required licenses in 2017 when the city set its new standards for massage establishments.