Glenwood cops go undercover, make prostitution arrests | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood cops go undercover, make prostitution arrests

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent

The owner of one Glenwood Springs massage establishment and an employee of a second were arrested on prostitution-related charges in apparently unrelated incidents Thursday night.

The arrests are highly unusual for Glenwood, so much so that city police had to consult with other agencies to decide how to carry out the undercover operations that led to the arrests.

“This is just not something I’ve got a lot of familiarity with. … This was definitely a little bit of a twist for us,” said Chief Terry Wilson, a longtime member of Glenwood’s police department.

Arrested were Qing Zhang, 41, the owner of Asian Day Spa at 718 Cooper Ave., and a resident at that address, and Hui Jun Mu, 48, an employee of A-1 Chinese Health Care Massage at 1026-B Grand Ave. and a resident there.

Zhang faces charges of prostitution, unlawful sexual contact and keeping a place of prostitution. Jun Mu is charged with prostitution and unlawful sexual contact.

All are misdemeanor charges.

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The two were taken to Garfield County Jail but both had posted bonds and been released by Friday. Jun Mu’s bond amount is $1,250, and Zhang’s is $2,000.

Zhang is due in court Nov. 2, and Jun Mu on Nov. 6.

Wilson said he doesn’t think the two cases are connected. He also has no reason to suspect the owner of the business where Jun Mu worked knew prostitution was occurring there. She was the only employee there when the incident occurred.

“There’s nothing to indicate that somebody else was involved,” he said.

Attempts by the Post Independent to reach the owner in person and by phone were unsuccessful Friday, but a man contacted there repeatedly said the arrest was the result of a misunderstanding.

However, a police affidavit describes what police believe was an attempt to provide sexual services for money. An undercover officer wearing a wireless transmitter entered the business early Thursday evening and paid $40 for a half-hour massage. The officer says Jun Mu touched his private parts, then asked “you want?” and when he said yes told him it would cost $60.

When she indicated the act she intended to perform on him and he gave her the money, he then signaled for officers waiting outside to arrest her, the affidavit alleges.

At about 8:40 p.m., an undercover officer met a woman who identified herself as “Gigi” at the Asian Day Spa, the officer’s report said. The woman – later identified as Zhang – said the massage price was $65, and then told him the price was $50 when he asked for a half-hour massage. He then asked if it included massaging both his back and front. “She stated, ‘for you I make special,'” the officer’s report said.

Zhang then began touching his private parts and asking “you wanna pay?” and when he said yes, she indicated it would cost $40 for a certain sexual act and “60 for me on you,” police allege.

She then removed all but her underpants, lay down beside him and began rubbing against him, at which point he said he thought he had only $40, the report continues. When she got up and began to perform the act she had offered at that price, he signaled other officers and they arrested her, the report states.

Wilson said police began investigating “after receiving hints and allegations I guess for the last couple of months about two different businesses in the downtown area that are billed as kind of Oriental massage places.”

He said police struggled with how to conduct an undercover operation that would gain enough evidence for conviction while “avoiding anything that would be inappropriate.”

“That gave us great pause for concern and frankly we had to talk to agencies around the state that deal with these things a little more frequently.”

He said the local District Attorney’s Office was particularly helpful in looking at case law and providing guidance.

“I give a ton of credit to the DA’s office for helping us,” he said.

A police affidavit also shows involvement by the Trident multiagency drug investigation team and personnel from the Rifle Police Department and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office in Thursday’s undercover operation.

Wilson said he’s not sure what might happen to the two businesses, and expects that might be something the city manager and city attorney will consider.

Customers of Maria Sippola at the Artist’s Mercantile, a store near the Asian Day Spa, had long speculated that prostitution might be occurring there.

“I had a lot of people coming in and chuckling and kind of assuming that was what was going on,” she said.

Sippola said she had wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to the business, and had met someone there who seemed nice.

“They were quiet, didn’t interfere with anything,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine anyone would move into a downtown location that would be doing anything like that.”

She said she didn’t see a lot of traffic going in and out of the building.

Wilson said police didn’t find any “black book” containing customers’ names in connection with either of Thursday’s arrests.

“We’re not thinking we have a Heidi Fleiss situation here,” he said, referring to the operator of the prostitution ring that catered to Hollywood celebrities.