Oak Park police arrested four women on Tuesday, Aug. 8, in a sting operation at three massage businesses in Oak Park which are suspected of engaging in prostitution. The businesses are located on North Avenue, Chicago Avenue and Roosevelt Road.
Tina King, a 51-year-old Chicago woman, and Limei Menge, 47, of Rosemead, California, were charged with prostitution, and Zhang Lan, 49, and Tiantian Kan, 30, both of Chicago, were charged with conducting massages without a state of Illinois massage license.
Both charges are Class A misdemeanors. All four posted bond and were released from custody. They are due in court at Maybrook at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 11.
Oak Park Police Detective Sergeant Michael Lepczynski said in a telephone interview that local police have been working with the Cook County Sheriff's Police for over a month investigating King Spa, 6441 W. North Ave., and Angel Spa, which has two Oak Park locations at 1102 Chicago Ave. and 6340 Roosevelt Rd.
Lepczynski said the police began investigating the businesses after receiving complaints from residents.
King was arrested at King Spa, Menge at Angel Spa on Chicago and both Lan and Kan at Angel Spa on Roosevelt.
The three businesses have been closed temporarily, Lepczynski said.
David Powers, a spokesman for the village, said in an email that the three businesses will appear before Village Manager Cara Pavlicek for a hearing within the next 10 days.
"Depending on the outcome of the hearings, the village manager does have the authority to revoke the business licenses," Powers said in email.
The village identified the business owners as: Tina King, owner of King Spa and doing business under the name Cici Massage Services; Tony Zeng, owner of Angel Spa on Roosevelt Road and doing business under the name Foot Massage Corporation; and Jing and Samuel Chen, owners of Angel Spa on Chicago and doing business under the name Heaven Massage Spa.
It is unclear whether the Tina King, who was arrested for prostitution at King Spa, is the same Tina King who is listed as the owner of the business.
Powers noted that both King Spa and the Angel Spa on Roosevelt had business licenses with the village but the Angel Spa on Chicago did not. An application for the Chicago business had been submitted with the village, but a license had not been issued.
Oak Park Police Chief Anthony Ambrose wrote in an email that the "allegations of prostitution are not that common (in Oak Park)."
Ambrose added that the arrests "should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks they can slip into our community and set up an illegal business."
"Our citizens are vigilant and keep close tabs on their neighborhoods. And when an Oak Parker suspects something is out of the ordinary, they let police know. And, as I said, we take citizen complaints seriously," Ambrose wrote.
One Oak Park resident revealed to Wednesday Journal that one of the businesses – King Spa – was advertising "sexy Asian girls" in online ads earlier this summer. King Spa ads were posted on sites such as Rubmaps.com, a website that advertises its services as a place "Where fantasy meets reality" and offers "escorts" and "escort reviews."
The business's ads also were discovered on the website Chicago.postfastr.com, stating that "Sweeet sexy Asian girls will satisfy you."
Oak Park trustees have been made aware of the massage businesses, but one trustee, Deno Andrews, has been aware of King Spa for months because the business is located about half a block away from his fast-food restaurant Felony Franks, 6427 W. North Ave.
Andrews said in a telephone interview that residents were skeptical when King Spa opened last year, but they could not determine if prostitution was taking place until the online ads were discovered.
"I'm glad somebody identified this as a problem," Andrews said, adding, "The police and everyone involved did a great job responding to community complaints."
Andrews said illegal businesses like King Spa pose a "reputational threat" to nearby businesses and the village as a whole.
He said he wants the village to review the requirements for opening a massage business in Oak Park and make sure all employees at such establishments are licensed massage therapists.
Judith Alexander, chair of the community group The North Avenue District (T-NAD) and co-founder of North Avenue Neighbors Association (NANA), was one of the first Oak Parkers to alert the community to the King Spa ads.
She said in an interview that in June she learned of the King Spa ads from the neighbor of a former T-NAD board member and began posting them on the Facebook page for The North Avenue Neighbors Association.
Alexander was asked to take the posts down by the village over concerns that it could scuttle the Oak Park Police Department investigation, and Alexander complied.
She and others were skeptical of the King Spa business because of posters in the window that were "very suggestive" and pictured a "scantily clad woman" getting a massage, Alexander said.
"These are not the kind of posters you would see in a licensed massage therapist's office," she said.
Alexander said she and others from T-NAD and NANA have been working with the village to reclassify massage businesses as a special use in the village's zoning ordinance, which is currently being rewritten.
Under the new zoning code, which needs approval from the Oak Park village board, massage parlors would be classified as a special use for such commercial corridors. That classification would require them to appear before the Oak Park Zoning Board of Appeals for review before being granted a business license.
That extra level of vetting would be intended to serve as a deterrent to illegitimate massage parlors from attempting to open in Oak Park.
"It is much easier to stop a business from opening than it is to close them down," she said.
Alexander also is pushing the village to run criminal background checks on massage-parlor business owners before granting them a business license.
She said such businesses have a negative impact on the commercial corridor because "they discourage positive businesses from opening or remaining open in their vicinity."
* This story was updated to include the names of the owners of the three businesses and the status of their business licenses.
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