Woman arrested in NC massage business sex sting previously ran spa in Horry County

One of six girls arrested this month throughout a federal sting at unlawful massage companies ran an identical operation in Horry County that shut down following a controversial countywide investigation.

Ok Hwa Lee, of Little River, was arrested June 16 together with 5 different girl on prices of conspiracy, bribery, and working an unlawful prostitution enterprise in interstate commerce.

Lee was the chief and supervisor of six North Carolina massage parlors that federal investigators stated supplied sex acts in change for cash.

Lee previously owned Lily Spa, at 2100 Old Hwy 17 North in Little River, the place Horry County police arrested a number of girls throughout a pair of prostitution stings in early 2019. None of the ladies arrested then had licenses to work as massage therapists, based on data with the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Following these 2019 sting operations, which included arrests at quite a few different massage companies throughout the county, The Sun News revealed an investigation that consulted regulation enforcement consultants and advocates who warned that police were potentially arresting human trafficking victims.

After that investigation, the county solicitor filed nuisance orders against more than 20 local massage parlors, most of which voluntarily shut down. Earlier this yr, The Sun News discovered that the investigation main to those civil prices concerned quite a few native police businesses paying a Columbia-area non-public investigator, who participated in sex acts with the employees, who have been doubtlessly trafficking victims.

At some level between the preliminary prostitution arrests at Lily Spa and the solicitor submitting prices, the identify of the Little River business modified to Garden Spa, and possession transferred to In Gyung Lim. However Lee nonetheless seemed to be concerned in the business, based on on-line courtroom data. The property proprietor filed to evict Lee and Garden Spa in August 2019, after the solicitor filed the nuisance actions, based on courtroom data.

Federal investigators observe in the felony grievance that Lee admitted to an spy that she had a behavior of paying somebody to place her business below a special identify to keep away from scrutiny.

Lee could have been concerned with at the very least one different former Horry County massage business as a result of the non-public investigator famous in his report that the receipts he obtained at Harmony Spa, in Myrtle Beach, have been listed as coming from Lily Spa.

Law enforcement consultants and human trafficking sufferer advocates have been crucial of the massage parlor investigation performed in Horry County noting, amongst quite a few points, that the shortage of felony prices meant the business homeowners might simply transfer their business and their staff, who might proceed to be victimized.

Homeland Security’s most up-to-date investigation started in August 2020, based on the grievance, and it doesn’t state how lengthy Lee was working the companies in North Carolina.

The girls paid hundreds of {dollars} in bribes to a regulation enforcement officer, who was truly an spy posing as a corrupt regulation enforcement officer, based on a launch from the U.S. Attorney’s workplace. The officer was paid to supply safety for his or her operation of unlawful massage parlors in Cary and Wilmington, NC, the place sexual providers have been supplied, based on the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The arrested girls are from Flushing, N.Y., and Little River.

Investigators additionally gathered proof by stopping prospects leaving these companies and getting them to confess to paying for sexual providers, a tactic that consultants previously instructed The Sun News would have been a extra applicable technique to show possible trigger for the nuisance orders.

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