Xufang Ou

A Lafayette woman arrested in a massage parlor prostitution sting has pleaded not guilty to charges of human trafficking and pandering.

Xufang Ou, 33, of the 300 block of Guilbeau Road, was charged with human trafficking and two counts of pandering after the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office raided five massage parlors and three residences Feb. 12. All three charges are felonies.

The raid followed a 17-month investigation after nearby businesses and residents complained about one of the massage parlors. Eight people were arrested in total; a ninth person was picked up in the investigation but said she was forced into prostitution as part of a human trafficking operation.

An arrest affidavit for Ou described her as a main subject “working in management roles in this illicit massage parlor ring.”

Ou was originally held on $1 million bond at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center for the human trafficking charge but her bond was reduced to $100,000 for that count. Agents with bonding and intake at the jail confirmed Ou posted $125,000 bond Friday. The additional $25,000 was for her pandering charges.

It’s unclear when the court approved Ou’s petition for reduced bond. Ou’s attorneys originally filed a motion to decrease the amount on March 4, claiming “the weight of the evidence against the defendant is not such as to justify the amount of bail previously fixed,” among other reasons.

Ou was ordered to surrender her passport before she posted bond, court documents show.

On Monday, Ou submitted a not guilty plea for the human trafficking and pandering charges. She waived her formal arraignment hearing, set for April 23, and is scheduled to appear in court June 27 for a pre-trial hearing, court documents show.

Arrest documents claim Asian women were being transported from China and were forced to pay off thousands of dollars in debt for their transportation to the United States by living in the massage parlors and performing sexual favors for clients. The businesses would keep a significant portion of the payments, documents say.

The arrest documents cay the women worked for Ou, who transported them between different locations and was aware of the sexual activity occurring.

On Feb. 17, an aide to Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins was arrested and charged with two counts of pandering in connection with the same investigation, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Jerod C. Prunty, 47, of Lafayette, resigned from Higgins' staff after his arrest.

The Lafayette massage parlors targeted by authorities included Golden Spa, 117 Industrial Parkway; Angel Massage, 1007 Kaliste Saloom Road; AA+ Massage, 292 Ridge Road, Suite 6A; Asian Spa, 1512 Ambassador Caffery Parkway, Suite 1; and Harmony Zen Spa, 2848 Verot School Road, Suite 1.

Follow Katie Gagliano on Twitter, @katie_gagliano.