Petaluma police arrested the owner of Westside massage spa Tuesday afternoon, part of a citywide crackdown on businesses suspected of engaging in criminal activity.
Jing Cai, 59, who is listed as the owner of China Massage, located at 410 Petaluma Boulevard South, was arrested on charges of prostitution and running a house of ill repute, police said. Also arrested was Le Chi Thi Ho, 51, an employee at the spa, formerly known as Moonflower Massage. Both women are Petaluma residents.
“We received numerous complaints about suspicious activity here, including customers coming in the late evening and staying for just a short time,” said Sgt. Jim Stephenson, who led the operation that focused on five local massage spas.
A search warrant was also served and on Tuesday officers were busy inventorying items and carting away files.
Earlier this year, Petaluma Patch wrote about local massage spas that are exploiting weak city and state regulations to engage in prostitution. Unlike most healthcare professionals, massage therapists are not required to be certified, unless they work in a city that demands it.
The spotty regulations are a boon for illicit businesses where women offer sexual services in exchange for large tips.
“The first thing we look for is human trafficking, but if that can’t be determined, we look at criminal activity, whether there are pimps or money that is being dispursed,” Stephenson said.
In part because of Patch’s coverage (or so we have been told), Petaluma police have been working on an ordinance that would require all employees at massage establishments to undergo a background check, be fingerprinted and be regularly inspected by the Sonoma County Health Department.
It’s now scheduled to be presented and discussed at the December 3 City Council meeting.
“The department is looking at addressing some policy changes surrounding massage businesses because we understand that this is a quality of life issue,” said Lt. Dave Sears, the principal author of the ordinance.
San Rafael, Healdsburg, Napa, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa all have massage ordinances that regulate certain aspects of the business.