By Madina Toure
A Flushing couple charged with coercing two women into performing sex acts on customers in Nassau County massage parlors that the pair owned did not have licenses to practice massage therapy of any kind, according to the Nassau County DA’s office.
The couple, identified as Zhaowei Yin, 49, and his wife, Shuwen Ai, 46, who live in the area of Avery Avenue and Saul Street, were indicted on charges of sex trafficking, promoting prostitution, labor trafficking and unauthorized practices under New York State Education Law, Acting Nassau County DA Madeline Singas announced last week.
The state Education Department, which issues licenses to massage therapists, said it has no licenses on file for the couple.
The couple is due back in court Oct. 15. They face a maximum sentence of 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison if convicted of sex trafficking, Singas said. A third defendant in the case will be arraigned at a future date.
The couple’s building could not be accessed and residents in the area did not appear to know them.
Between May 2013 and the end of January 2014, the couple allegedly hired two women responding to ads in Chinese-language newspapers, claiming the women would be performing massages, Singas said.
But the couple started to require them to perform sexual services on male customers at Lucy’s Spa at 300 Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead and Panda Foot Spa at 400 Franklin Ave. in Franklin Square, she said. Both locations are now closed.
Investigations found that women were often forced to sleep at the businesses, Singas added.
The couple never paid one employee for the time that she worked at the massage parlor at all and deducted wages from the other woman for occasional transportation home after work and for sleeping at the location, the acting DA said.
Yin and Ai allegedly threatened one of the women that they would post a naked photograph of her on the Internet and in newspapers and threatened to report the undocumented victim and get her deported, Singas said.
One of the woman was allegedly forced to continue to perform the services a male customer demanded despite the fact that he was physically violent toward her, Singas said.
The couple is believed to have owned spas that are now closed in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as at least one currently operating spa in Nassau County.
The joint investigation by the district attorney’s office and the Nassau County Police Department is ongoing.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour