Two women from China who had been operating a massage parlor in the same Clarence location where authorities shut down a prostitution business a year ago were arrested Friday for allegedly offering sex for money.
Jiling Liu, 47, and Xiukun Gao, 42, who both reportedly lived at the business at 9135 Sheridan Drive, were arrested about 3 p.m., capping an eight-week investigation that began after the Erie County Sheriff's Office began getting complaints about the business.
The two Beijing-born suspects are being held in the Erie County Holding Center in downtown Buffalo and are expected to be questioned Monday by federal immigration agents and the Western District Human Trafficking Task Force.
Sheriff Timothy Howard said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the task force want to determine if the business, which reopened several months ago, is linked to international human-trafficking crimes.
At about 2 p.m., two undercover officers went into the massage parlor, which the two women billed on Craigslist and in a local entertainment weekly as offering "the best Asian body work in town."
At about 2:30 p.m., the undercover agents alerted the raiding team that, according to Howard, "a verbal agreement had been made to perform a sex act for money." The women were charged with one count of prostitution, forcible touching and a violation of the state education law for unlicensed massage therapy, which is a medical procedure.
Charges were brought by Senior Detective Jim Hatch and Detectives Christian Parisi, Scott Piel and Dan Brinkerhoff. They found about $11,000 in cash hidden in multiple locations throughout the building, the sheriff said.
Further investigation of other possible suspects linked to the massage parlor, which the two women had advertised in fliers distributed locally as the "Oriental Body Work" shop, is continuing.
The raid and a search of the business was conducted Friday afternoon under a search warrant issued earlier by Clarence Town Justice Robert G. Sillars.
The Clarence Town Building Inspector's office, which had closed down the business that operated at that location a year ago because of prostitution charges, ordered the building sealed again following the Friday afternoon arrests.
Mary Murray, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said the two Chinese women had been promoting their business as offering deep tissue finger and Swedish massages "by experienced licensed masseurs."