NEW CITY – Following a seven-month probe, Clarkstown Police and the District Attorney’s Special Victims and Community Prosecution units nabbed seven suspects in a sweep of five Clarkstown day spas where prostitution allegedly took place.
The undercover operation, which began in November 2013 and continued into May 2014, targeted area day spas where workers stand accused of offering unlicensed massages and sexual favors in exchange for pay. Most of the arrests were concentrated in New City and all but one of the spas were located in the Town of Clarkstown.
Gyelim Choi of Flushing, NY and Chun Ji Tian of Spring Valley worked at the Keum Tree Spa on 6 New Valley Road in New City. Jishu Li of Flushing, NY and Hwa Kim of Flushing, NY worked at the New City Spa at 59 South Main Street in New City.
Other suspects include Yeongae Kim of Palisades Park, NJ, who worked at the Green Spa at 159 Route 304 in Bardonia, Pan Zi Sherry of Flushing, NY, who worked at the Nanuet Spa at 344 West Route 59 in Nanuet and Mihwa Kim of Palisades Park, NJ, who worked at the Nyack Health Spa at 9 Ingalls Street in Nyack.
According to Clarkstown District Attorney Thomas Zugibe the goal of targeting massage parlors extends beyond the crime of prostitution and into associated criminal activities which can spring up around the illicit business.
“The joint operation clearly demonstrates our emphasis on ‘quality of life’ crimes, including prostitution,” Zugibe stated in an official press release. “While some may call prostitution a victimless crime, it often leads to other illegal activity, including human trafficking, drug sales and violence.”
Each defendant was charged with Unauthorized Practice, a class E felony and Prostitution, a class B misdemeanor. If convicted of the felony charge, the suspects could face up to four years in prison.
Clarkstown Police explained an investigation was ongoing and declined to comment on whether trafficking or organized criminal activity played a part in the enterprises. However, they did confirm County Attorney Thomas Humbach was pursuing civil injunctions and fines against the womens’ employers and the landlords who rented the properties.
This is not the first time such sweeps have been implemented. A small store front spa in Nyack was targeted by police twice. The first sting occurred in 2011 while the most recent one in March resulted in two arrests.
Larger sting operations are also known to occur in the county. A joint operation conducted in February by the District Attorney’s Office, Clarkstown Police and the FBI netted 17 arrests for promotion of prostitution, human trafficking and drug possession and sales. At least a few of the women found in the sweep claimed to have been trafficked.