Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer sued the owners, operators and landlord of two San Fernando Valley massage parlors he alleged are well-known for prostitution.
The businesses, known as the Blue Moon Relax Spa, are located in Van Nuys and Tarzana. Both spas are located in strip malls — the Van Nuys location at 6817 Balboa Boulevard, and the Tarzana location at 18959 Ventura Boulevard. The Van Nuys business was opened in 2011, and the Tarzana business in 2014.
The Van Nuys business is located within walking distance of several schools including Birmingham Community Charter High, Valley Alternative Magnet and Mulholland Middle School.
Feuer, at a press conference in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, May 28, described the women working in the two locations as “sex workers with little or no clothing on them. They’re presented [to customers] to select.” He said that the LAPD had conducted vice investigations at one or both of these locations, and those investigations had resulted in 14 prostitution-related arrests.
“We contend these locations are notorious for prostitution, and have been for some time,” he said. “We’re seeking an injunction. We want these properties to be shut down. We want to hold the people behind these businesses accountable, and that includes the landlord at these properties.”
Feuer was joined by council members Nury Martinez (Sixth District) and Bob Blumenfield (Third District).
“It is crucial we prosecute ‘bad actors,’ and business owners operating out of compliance, to the fullest extent of the law. Not only because they are breaking the law, but because it is the right thing to do,” said Martinez, in whose district lies the Van Nuys spa.
“It is never acceptable to pay, or use a woman’s body, in exchange for sex. And it is important that we keep our community safe from these types of businesses, and anything that operates illegally in our neighborhoods,” Martinez said.
According to LAPD Detective Joe Booth, one of the investigators, the women working in the two businesses were Chinese. He could not say if the women were in the country illegally.
In the United States, human trafficking tends to occur around international travel-hubs with large immigrant populations, notably California, Texas and Georgia.
CAST, a Los Angeles-based anti-human trafficking organization, considers you a survivor of human trafficking if — among other reasons — you were forced or threatened to work at any type of job and you could not leave it; if someone forced, threatened or coerced you into working in prostitution, including selling your body in exchange for money, food or shelter; or if you were under 18 and you engaged in prostitution.
Feuer said the women working at the spas were offered aid and/or services by CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking) “if [the women] believe” they have been victims of human trafficking.
“I will say, thus far, none of the women have accepted that offer. But that is not uncommon in situations like this,” Feuer said. “Our partners at CAST point out the it sometimes takes a series of communications and sometimes some distance. both in place and in time, for women to accept the services that CAST wishes to make available.”
Blumenfield described the Tarzana spa, which is in his district, as a “massage brothel” that was “basically existing in plain sight. And to be so close to schools and our young people, it’s unconscionable.
“We’ve had a number of arrests in the past. But this time, going a step further — going after the business owner and the landlord — will not only make a difference in ridding us of this place, but will send an important message throughout the city; that we are not going to tolerate sex trafficking, we’re not going to tolerate this kind of activity,” Blumenfield said.
The suit was filed against Xiaoxi Ding and Hongshan Wang as CEO and manager of Kedi Enterprises, Inc., the corporation behind Blue Moon Relax Spa. The suit also names Balowen LLC as the owner and operator of the Van Nuys strip mall, and Topeka Plaza LLC as the owner and operator of the Tarzana strip mall. According to public records, the manager of both LLC’s is Dr. Isaac Hakim, a Beverly Hills dentist.
It seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions for both locations under the state’s Red Light Abatement and Unfair Competition Laws, including evicting the businesses, preventing the properties from being leased, rented or sold to massage therapy businesses in the future and — if necessary — not allowing the owners to rent the properties to anyone for one year.
The issue of prostitution and human trafficking is of particular importance to Martinez, who directed strong words toward those named in the suit.
“Because it is never okay to have children pass by any types of these businesses on their way home or on their way to school… I’d also like to send a message to anyone that wants to come into my district — or any part of the city — that is looking to buy a woman or girl for sex. We’re coming for you, we will arrest you, and you will go to jail,” Martinez said.
Feuer — alleging the defendants have operated a “sophisticated prostitution ring at both locations under the guise of massage therapy businesses” — repeatedly stressed that the suit was civil, not criminal, and that neither business had “voluntarily closed.”
“We are seeking an injunction; we have not yet obtained the injunction,” Feuer said. “And these are allegations at this point; we haven’t proven anything in court. But you can tell we take the allegations very seriously.”
Deputy District Attorney Joe Gonzalez said LAPD vice investigations began looking into the Van Nuys spa in 2012. By 2015 the City Attorney’s office had both spas under investigation, and both investigations resumed this year.
“By then we felt we had the evidence necessary to go forth with a civil action,” Gonzalez said.