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Guilty Verdict For Owner of Rainier Massage Parlor Taken Over By Vice Detectives

A unique operation by the Seattle Police Department’s Vice/High-Risk Victims Unit—which had detectives running a south Seattle massage parlor for a day in order to arrest johns—came to a close last week after a jury found the owner of the massage parlor, Liu Wei, guilty of promoting prostitution.

Undercover Vice/High Risk Victims Unit detectives began investigating the foot massage business—located at Rainier Avenue S. and S. Adam Street—in June 2010, and quickly discovered that employees were offering more than just foot rubs.

Between June and October 2010, detectives visited the business four times, where female employees offered them sex in exchange for cash.

Detectives then served a warrant on the massage parlor and seized $11,000 in cash at the business. After detectives raided the Rainier massage parlor, it became clear that the women who worked there were paying most of the money they made through prostitution to the owner of the business.

After arresting the shop’s owner, detectives took over the business for a day and waited for johns to come in. Ultimately, seven people visited the business, but only one appeared interested in a legitimate foot massage. Detectives released that person, but arrested six others after they offered a female undercover detective money for sex.

The Seattle Police Department’s Vice/High-Risk Victims Unit has greatly shifted how it pursues prostitution cases. In recent years, police have become more aware of frequent ties between prostitution and human trafficking, and have begun focusing on arresting the pimps and johns who exploit women, men, and children victimized in the sex trade.

In response, the department  has adopted a “victim-centered approach,” according to Vice/High-Risk Victims Unit Lieutenant Ken Hicks, recognizing that those involved in prostitution are often recruited into the sex trade through fraud, coercion, or force.

“We’re not just trying to get the girls doing the massages,” says Lieutenant Ken Hicks. “It’s the patrons, the supply and demand, both sides of the house.”

The Rainier massage parlor owner, Wei, is scheduled to be sentenced in King County Superior Court later this week.