Victoria spa suspected of prostitution (video)
A Victoria spa owner was arrested Tuesday on a warrant charging him with aggravated promotion of prostitution.
Victoria Police Chief J.J. Craig said the arrest follows a 14-month investigation into a suspected prostitution and international human trafficking ring that involved 10 law enforcement agencies from Houston to Rockport.
Craig declined to say whether more arrests would be made or whether other Victoria businesses are being investigated.
Shaoyun Qu, 40, of Houston, was arrested at Q Spa in the 2700 block of the business route of state Highway 35 in Rockport after four search warrants were simultaneously served. Qu is the registered owner of the Victoria business, Foot Spa, 2806 N. Navarro St., according to the city's appraisal records.
Authorities spent most of Tuesday afternoon searching the Victoria business, where a mobile command unit was in the parking lot, and yellow crime scene tape blocked an area in front of the spa's main entrance.
Craig said evidence recovered at the scene should support the allegations. He did not elaborate on what the evidence was because of the continuing investigation.
Other agencies executed warrants at the Rockport spa, a Rockport residence and a home in the 9100 block of Leader Street in Houston.
Two women at the Victoria business also were detained during Tuesday's investigation and were still in custody Tuesday night, said Sgt. Eline Moya, a spokeswoman for the Victoria Police Department. One man and two women from the Houston location were detained during the search, Moya said, but later released pending further investigation. Two other women from Rockport also were detained, and it is unknown if they're still in custody.
A business neighbor, who asked that her name not be used, said she thought something was suspicious at the Victoria spa because she only saw men going in and out of the business.
"It was rare to see an actual woman outside of the store," she said.
John Sheffel, who works at The Corner Clinic, said he had no idea what was going on at the spa. The clinic is in back of the strip mall on North Navarro Street and opened almost five years ago, he said.
There are many legitimate massage therapists in the area, Sheffel said, and it was a shame that one business might cast a shadow over the profession.
"Anyone can hang up a sign and say what they want to," he said. "It's part of our growing pains. Victoria is growing."
Craig said since joining the police department more than two years ago, he has not seen a similar case.
"We're not going to tolerate this in Victoria," he said.
Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, which licenses massage therapy establishments, said her department received a complaint about Foot Spa on Sept. 6.
"The complaint was anonymous. The complainant alleged the establishment was unlicensed and engaging in prostitution. We sent the establishment a cease and desist letter, which is what we do when that sort of thing comes to our attention. We also informed local law enforcement by letter (of the alleged prostitution), and that was sent on Sept. 17."
Complaints can be made to the department by email, fax, mail or phone. Mann said she did not know how this specific complaint was received.
The Victoria Police Department was assisted in the case by the Houston Police Department, Texas attorney general's office, Victoria County district attorney's office, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Victoria County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Marshal Service and the Rockport Police Department.
Advocate reporters Jessica Priest and Melissa Crowe contributed to this story.