S.F. massage parlor ordered to close

The City has ordered a massage parlor to shut down after an undercover police sting allegedly found the business was acting as a front for prostitution in the past seven years.

From 1999 and 2006, police say, masseuses working at Lee’s Oriental Massage at 1284 Mission St. offered undercover San Francisco police officers sex in return for money, in some cases $120 or $160.

The massage parlor was also illegally operating past its midnight curfew, employing unlicensed masseuses and using a number of hiding places to evade police, such as “false walls,” according to police.

The permit for the massage parlor was revoked by The City in a administrative hearing, and the establishment was ordered to shut down Friday. It was the first hearing of its kind following last year’s federal investigation into human trafficking, which resulted in a raid of 10 city massage parlors.

As part of the raid, two women were indicted for allegedly participating in a human trafficking ring that brought Korean women to San Francisco and forced them into prostitution. Last Friday, the two women pleaded guilty to operating brothels and employing undocumented immigrant women.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera said revoking the Mission Street massage parlor’s permit sends the message that “sexual exploitation will not be tolerated.”

Attorney Adam Slote, representing massage parlor owner Arthur Lee, emphasized that Lee was not charged in the federal case alleging human trafficking and that Lee was not aware prostitution was taking place at his business.

As recently as February, police say, officers were allegedly propositioned for sex at the massage parlor, and they also found three unlicensed masseuses “concealed in a hiding place under the front stairway.”

Slote said, “[Arthur] Lee’s former manager permitted masseuses to work without licenses, and three of these unlicensed masseuses hid in a storage area during the investigation.” Slote said the hiding place has since been filled in.

“In view of the fact that this is Lee’s first [hearing] and that there are only two violations since 2001, a fine is the appropriate penalty,” Slote said, adding that he may appeal the decision.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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