Owners of massage parlors in Massachusetts arrested in connection with human trafficking, prostitution

Owners of massage parlors in Massachusetts arrested in connection with human trafficking, prostitution

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BOSTON — The owners of two massage parlors — one in Wellesley, Mass., and the other in Revere, Mass. — have been arrested in connection with human trafficking and prostitution. This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to the Massachusetts attorney general's office and the Wellesley Police Department.

Zhen Lai, 37, of Quincy, Mass., and Joseph Girouard, 55, of Revere, were arrested this afternoon by HSI special agents and the Massachusetts State Police. Lai was arrested in Quincy and Girouard was arrested in Somerville, Mass. Lai and Girouard are each charged with one count each of trafficking in persons for sexual servitude and keeping a house of ill fame.

"Today's arrests are the result of the great partnership HSI has with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office and Massachusetts State Police in our unyielding resolve to bring human traffickers to justice," said Bruce M. Foucart, special agent in charge of HSI Boston. "Human trafficking can exist anywhere, as shown with this investigation. HSI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who commit these crimes are held accountable for their actions."

"We allege that these individuals ran two massage parlors that were thinly veiled fronts for prostitution," said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. "Further, these two defendants allegedly profited from sexual services provided to clients by women they employed. We would like to thank HSI and our local police partners for assisting in the investigation and arrests."

"This investigation was a model of collaboration and cooperation between investigators from the Wellesley Police Department, HSI and the attorney general's office," said Chief Terrence Cunningham, Wellesley Police Department. "Thanks to Attorney General Coakley's attention to the human trafficking issue and her unwavering determination to bring individuals involved in the exploitation of women to justice, this is not just another prostitution prosecution."

The arrests are the result of an investigation into allegations of human trafficking and prostitution at Sun Spa, also known as Sun Studio, in Wellesley and Bodywork in Revere. Authorities allege that Lai and Girouard jointly operated the two massage parlors. During the course of the investigation, authorities developed evidence indicating that these massage parlors were allegedly offering sexual activity between masseuses employed by Lai and Girouard and their clients in exchange for cash that was characterized as "tips." Investigation also revealed that Lai and Girouard advertised the two spas on websites known to advertise prostitution.

This afternoon, federal, state and local law enforcement executed search warrants at the two massage parlors. Following the execution of the search warrants, authorities arrested Lai and Girouard.

Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes that HSI investigates. In its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. Victims pay to be illegally transported into the United States only to find themselves in the thrall of traffickers. They are forced into prostitution, involuntary labor and other forms of servitude to repay debts — often entry in the United States. In certain cases, the victims are mere children. They find themselves surrounded by an unfamiliar culture and language without identification documents, fearing for their lives and the lives of their families.

HSI is serious about ending human trafficking.

HSI relies on tips from the public to dismantle these organizations. I encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open to suspicious activity. Trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight, voiceless and scared.

If you notice suspicious activity in your community, call HSI's Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or report tips online.

Click here to watch HSI's public service announcement regarding human trafficking.