SALT LAKE CITY — Police shut down seven massage parlors and arrested a man and a woman after a 10-month investigation into an alleged Wasatch Front prostitution ring.
Authorities booked Changfeng Lin, 35, also known as Michael Lin, into the Weber County Jail Tuesday for investigation of pattern of unlawful activity and exploiting prostitution.
Lihua Huang, 47, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of prostitution and unlawful conduct at a massage therapy practice.
The Utah Attorney General's Secure Strike Force on Tuesday executed search warrants on 11 businesses, three residences and four cars in Weber, Davis and Salt Lake counties.
Investigators suspect the seven massage parlors in Ogden, South Ogden, Clearfield, West Valley City and Salt Lake City were fronts for sexual exploitation. The say they found customers or "johns" during their searches who told them they paid for sexual acts at the parlors. The businesses only dealt in cash.
Police also cited several men for soliciting a prostitute, according to the attorney general's office.
"We have a lot of work to make our case," Attorney General Sean Reyes said Wednesday. "But if it is what we suspect it to be, then it is an example of domestic trafficking, or at least trafficking with people from another country who are brought against their will into our country."
Reyes said investigators believe at least some of the women are from China but they were still trying to determine how they came to the United States. Some came to Utah after answering ads for masseuses Lin placed in Asian newspapers in California and New York, the attorney general's office said.
Reyes said he believes the women are victims in the operation but said investigators won't know whether that's the case until they interview them to find out how they came to be involved.
Police watched Lin drive Asian women to as many as eight different massage parlors on any given day and believe he owns four of the locations, according to a probable cause statement filed with Lin's arrest. He also owns apartments between Ogden and Salt Lake City.
If one of the parlors wasn't busy, Lin would take workers to a different location, the document states.
Lin lived in China and California before moving to Utah a few years ago. He has no family in the state other than his wife who works in one of the massage parlors, investigators said.
The investigation began with information from an Ogden police officer assigned to the strike force, which includes the Utah Department of Public Safety and federal and local law enforcement agencies.