Nederland Police bust illegal massage parlors; 2 charged with prostitution

Published 12:40 am Friday, May 12, 2023

NEDERLAND — A massage parlor across the street from a Nederland elementary school is one of four locations in the city reportedly operating illegally.

On Thursday, three of those businesses were closed and a bright yellow note from the City of Nederland provided notice they were in violation of a city ordinance related to prohibited operations.

Two women were arrested May 1 on allegations of prostitution. Jian Chen, 49, who is associated with Fit Massage, 902 S. 27th St., was arrested on a warrant for another agency in relation to a prostitution charge. Bond was set at $2,000 and she bonded out the next day.

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Fit Massage is located across the street from Hillcrest Elementary School.

Bihui Liang, 52, who is associated with Natural Day Spa, 401 S. Memorial Freeway, was also arrested on a warrant for another agency in relation to a prostitution charge. Her bond was set at $3,000 and she posted bond the next day, according to information from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

The other locations the Nederland Police Department investigated as part of an undercover operation include Ivy Massage, 3534 FM 365 and Stone & Spa, 1607 Nederland Avenue.

Police visited Stone & Spa Nov. 18. By the time they came back during the investigation on May 5, the name of the business changed to I Massage Thai, Nederland Police Chief Gary Porter said.

Public reaction

Nederland Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick said on Thursday he was unaware of the code violation at the massage parlor across from Hillcrest but was going to call NPD to find out exactly what is going on.

“That is not acceptable,” he said regarding the alleged illegal activity.

An employee of a business near the South 27th Street massage parlor said she suspected something illegal activity was happening there. She said there were calls there all the time and older men were going in and out all day. Some, she said, would stay upwards of four to five hours at a time.

“It was suspicious,” the woman said.

An employee of a business near Ivy Massage on FM 365 said she didn’t notice anything odd other than the fact she only saw men enter and exit the business, never any women.

Neither businessperson wanted to give their name for fear of retaliation and said they did not want their establishment to be associated with the illegal ones.

Investigation & code violations

Last fall Nederland police began getting information that some of the massage type establishments around town were involved in illegal sex acts for money or tips, Nederland Police Chief Gary Porter said.

That led to the start of an undercover operation.

“It was a little bit difficult and we had some out-of-the-box thinking to figure how to do this,” Porter said.

Four officers took part in the undercover operation with eight to 10 total working all aspects. To do the investigation they had to act as a customer and see if anything illegal came from there.

There was another component of the investigation that lay with the City Council.

City Manager Chris Duque said they received complaints from the public about the possible illegal activity at the massage parlors. That led to a two-phase ordinance and amendment to an ordinance.

On Oct. 24, City Council approved an amendment to an older ordinance defining massage establishments and setting parameters for the business, signage and enforcement of the ordinance.

Then on Dec. 19 City Council approved an ordinance revising regulations to massage therapists and businesses.

“That ordinance was important because it tied together the October ordinance with the zoning (December) ordinance and the certificate of occupancy requirements,” Duque said.

If the business violated the provisions, they would lose their certificate of occupancy and be forced to close.

The new zoning provision states a massage parlor had to be located in a highway/retail zone and must get a specific use permit from City Council to operate.

The businesses were grandfathered in because they were opened under the previous zoning restrictions. But now, with violations, they have been shut down.

Two of the four businesses are located in areas of the city that are not zoned for highway/retail so they will be able to reopen in the same location.

Porter said they were able to make five criminal cases from the four establishments. Two arrests were made by law enforcement and the other cases were submitted to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office. Those individuals have not been arrested but they have active warrants, he said.

Porter said one of the issues with the illegal massage parlors is that some places have cameras inside and could be filming the customer. The customer could see themselves pop up one day on the internet or be the subject of blackmail.

The women allegedly involved in the illegal sex acts are from Sugarland, Katy, Orange, Nederland and California.

“This is a nationwide problem,” Porter said.

As for the future, Porter said police would continue to look for establishments operating illegally and an undercover officer may very well visit them in the future.

These cases also have a possibility of being part of human trafficking, he added.