Monday, March 09, 2009

Tonawanda massage parlor plea

From Channel 4 News in Buffalo, NY:

Tonawanda massage parlor plea
2 pleads guilty to harboring illegal aliens

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Acting U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter announced today that Ying Dong, 46, and her husband, Bing Lu, 49 , both of Flushing, New York entered pleas of guilty today before United States Judge William M. Skretny. Dong and Lu pled guilty to Harboring and Concealing Illegal Aliens while operating a massage parlor in Tonawanda. The charge carries a maximum punishment of 5 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for June 26, 2009 at 10:00 a.m..

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert C. Moscati, stated that the defendants admitted owning and operating Eastern Spa, 637 Main Street, Tonawanda, New York by employing illegal aliens whom they knew to be in the United States unlawfully.

These women performed services at the spa for a fee, the majority of which was paid to the defendants. The employees were permitted to keep any tips they received from the customers.

Eastern Spa and seven other "accupressure" and "spa" locations were shut down after federal, state and local law enforcement agencies executed search warrants at these locations on March 26, 2007.
On December 10, 2007, another law enforcement action shut down four more locations, resulting in a sex trafficking conviction of the owner of those spas.

Investigation and prosecution of these types of cases is a priority of the Department of Justice. In Western New York, these investigations are lead by the HTTFA, a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and non-government service organizations working together to identify, rescue and assist victims of human trafficking, human smuggling and other civil and human rights offenses in the 17 Counties of the District.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Moscati leads this task force. Since its inception, investigations by the HTTFA have resulted in 15 convictions and the rescue of over 60 employees, with several cases still pending. Acting United States Attorney Mehltretter emphasized that the Task Force will continue to aggressively investigate any case where it is believed the most vulnerable persons in our society are being victimized by persons intent on taking economic advantage of others based on their age, gender, ethnicity or status in this Country.

The joint investigation underlying this case was lead by the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Lev J. Kubiak, and included the participation of: United States Custom and Border Protection, under the direction of James Engleman; the United States Border Patrol, under the direction of Chief Patrol Agent Kevin Oaks; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Laurie Bennett; the United States Department of Labor, under the direction of Assistant District Director, Michael Fitzgerald; the Niagara Falls Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police John Chella; the Town of Niagara Police Department, under the direction of Chief of Police James Suitor; the New York State Police, under the direction of acting Superintendent Preston Felton and Special Investigations Unit Lieutenant William Saunders; the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Thomas Beilein; and the Erie County Sheriff's Office, under the direction of Sheriff Timothy Howard.
This case has been a long process for the WNY area. Sometimes, it is easier on the victims if they're not dragged through the long court process and the offenders plead out. I worry that the public nature of the plea, though, may confuse in people's minds the difference between smuggling, illegal immigration and human trafficking. However I feel that the continued work of law enforcement and NGOs in the WNY area will lead to increased public knowledge and better victim identification.


  1. A useful blog.

    Very meaningful as well.

    A mom from the bizymoms Tonawanda community.

  2. A very interesting and usefull read.

    A mom from the bizymoms Tonawanda community.