LAFAYETTE — Seven Asian massage parlors in Lafayette raided last week along with parlors in Bossier City and Lake Charles were part of a human trafficking network with international reach, officials said.
The seven businesses in Lafayette are alleged to have been sites of prostitution, employing women from China who were not allowed to leave the parlors, spoke no English and plied their trade in other U.S. locales.
“The massages were a front for the prostitution operations,” Lafayette police Chief Jim Craft said.
Craft announced the raids and ongoing investigation on Monday. He said the Lafayette Metro Narcotics undercover operation involved FBI agents and police from Lake Charles and Bossier City. The probe was initiated in February after Lafayette residents who live near some of the businesses complained.
Those complaints led to a seven-month investigation that found the Lafayette businesses had ties to parlors in Lake Charles and Bossier City, with Chinese-born women flying in from California. The investigation also found that cash generated from the Lafayette businesses was laundered in Louisiana and that ledgers tracking the money were kept in Chinese, Craft said.
The raid found that seven of eight Lafayette locations targeted by police and advertising Asian massages were found harboring illegal sex-for-hire operations, Craft said.
One of the businesses also had set up shop in an apartment in a Lafayette complex, he said.
One man and 10 women, all born in China, were arrested on counts of having no license from the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy. Two of the suspects — Pam La Ma and Maojin Cin — were each booked on 10 counts of promoting prostitution. Only one of the women was booked on an actual prostitution charge. The remainder were jailed on counts of having no massage license.
The businesses were: Diamond Massage,1507 Kaliste Saloom Road; Best Massage, 4652 Johnston St.; Asian Massage, 135 Arnould Blvd.; Fortune Massage, 117 Industrial Parkway; Rainbow Massage, 4702 Johnston St.; Angel Massage, 258 Bendel Road; Ocean Spa, 2517 West Pinhook Road; and apartment 330 at South Point Apartments, 221 Verot School Road.
After the raids, police brought in Chinese speakers to interpret what the suspects said.
Metro Narcotics Capt. Dwayne Prejean said the suspects did not know each other and worked at locations that they could not leave. Yet, he said, they all gave police the same story.
“They were well coached,” Prejean said.
Prejean said one of the women had flown in from California on Thursday, the day of the raid.
The alleged ringleader in Louisiana was Pam La Ma, who was arrested in Lake Charles. She faces 10 counts of promoting prostitution, allowing business premises to be used for prostitution and money laundering. The lone male among those arrested, Maojin Cin, who was part of Ocean Spa on Pinhook, faces 10 counts of promoting prostitution, pandering and allowing the premises to be used for prostitution.
Almost all the businesses were operating without the required license from the Louisiana Board of Massage Therapy, which in May issued cease and desist letters to some of the locations.
Craft said the raids Thursday were carried out simultaneously, and raiding police found clients inside.
“They (the parlors) were pretty busy,” he said.
Though no customers were arrested last week, they could face charges depending on the results of the ongoing investigation, Prejean said.
Seized in the raid were computers, ledgers, notes and bank documents, along with $13,650 in U.S. currency, and $1,743 in Hong Kong dollars.