PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) – Multiple spas in the area are being investigated for alleged sex trafficking.
Three BB Massage Spas in Marietta and Parkersburg and Sophie’s Relax Massage in Guernsey County were searched. Alleged prostitution was found at all locations.
Southeastern Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force’s Lieutenant Spencer McPeek said multiple customers reached out to law enforcement to tell them they were offered sexual services, which led to the investigation.
McPeek said victims were living at the Parkersburg and Marietta spas in backrooms.
A couple victims were homeless people in Parkersburg and others were Chinese immigrants.
“A lot of them don’t have citizenship, they don’t have drivers license, they don’t speak English…it’s just a really tough situation they’re in,” McPeek said.
Victims were drawn into the scheme through WeChat, a popular app in China, where they were told about an opportunity to work, according to McPeek. He clarified that the victims didn’t seem to be tricked into the situation, rather they were drawn towards the spas out of desperation.
McPeek added that officials have been working with homeland security and local charities to help victims with citizenship as well as find them a safe place to stay and get them connected to their families.
Two people who are not victims are being charged with felonies.
Brent Preece of Cambridge is being charged with promoting prostitution and obstructing justice. According to a press release, Preece “was facilitating day to day operations at the business and paying for sexual services.”
Yinqin LI of China is being charged with promoting prostitution.
More people will likely be charged, according to McPeek.
It’s confirmed that at least one spa location has shut down.
McPeek said there weren’t many local customers. A lot were from out of town such as out of town construction workers, truck drivers, etc.
The investigation was a multi-agency effort. The Southeastern Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, Parkersburg Police Department, The Parkersburg Violent Crimes and Narcotics Task Force, West Virginia State Police, Marietta Police Department, Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Guernsey County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, and Noble County Sheriff’s Office were all involved in the investigation.
All information mentioned above is from law enforcement.
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