It shared many common denominators of sex trafficking, but investigators have concluded the women arrested for prostitution this summer in Gardner weren’t involved in human trafficking.
According to Deputy Tom Erickson, Johnson County Sheriff’s investigators are not investigating sex trafficking charges related to the arrests, though it was something they considered at the start of the inquery.
“That was a part of the conversation,” Erickson said “But that’s not part of the final conversation.”
Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Qui Lan and Shu Han on July 5 after receiving a tip that sexual services were being offered at two massage parlors in Gardner – JJ Spa and Autherapy. An advertisement in Pitch Weekly listed the shops’ services as “Asian massage.”
That’s a common way to advertise sexual services in the sex traffic trade, according to the Polaris Project, an organization that combats human trafficking.
Last year, the FBI opened more than 200 investigations into human trafficking. The majority of the cases involved foreign people trafficked to the United States from other countries. Despite its geography almost dead center of the country, Johnson County isn’t immune to the sex trade.
In 2009, the U.S. Attorney’s Office sentenced the owner-operator of two Asian massage parlors in Johnson County, Kan. They were preparing to open a third location in Wichita when they were arrested for crimes related to sex trafficking. Ling Xu, Zhong Yan Liu, and Cheng Tang, Chinese nationals living in Overland Park, were sentence to prison and later deportation for organizing a criminal scheme, in which woman were from China were coerced into prostitution in Overland Park.
The threesome forced female Asians to work from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week without pay. The women lived inside the massage parlors and slept on top of the massage tables where they
were forced to perform sexual services on male patrons.
According to the Polaris Project website, it’s not uncommon for sex traffickers to force their workers to live in or near the massage parlors.
In the pending Gardner case, one of the women involved listed an address next door to the massage parlor. Lan and Han were arrested by undercover officers for prostitution after law enforcement officiers received a tip that sexual services were being offered in two Gardner locations.
Erickson said the sheriff’s office thoroughly explored the possibility of human trafficking after the arrests were made, but it was ruled out.
Lan and Han are charged with prostitution in the Gardner cases. Both have applied for diversion.