Amanda Milkovits; Journal Staff Writer March 14, 2001, Wednesday, Metro Edition Copyright 2001 The Providence Journal Company The Providence Journal-Bulletin March 14, 2001, Wednesday, Metro Edition
(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) - The massage parlor inside the ornate Victorian house at 232 Broadway has been raided twice in five months including just last Friday for allegedly operating as a brothel.
Now, the police are pressuring the landlord to evict Mo Mo Therapy, under a state statute that holds landlords responsible if they rent to people who are using the property for illegal activities.
It's the childhood home of landlord George Steele III, who now lives in Middletown.
Before renting to Mo Mo Therapy last fall, Steele said the agency cleared a background check. Mo Mo Therapy installed saunas and thermal beds, he said.
"When you walk in there, it sure looks legitimate," Steele said.
But the detectives had a different view. They saw small bedrolls tucked in the massage rooms, where the Korean women were apparently sleeping, and closets full of toiletries and sanitary products, stocked as if the massage parlor was being used as a dorm, said Lt. Steven Casbarro, head of the Special Services Division. One of the women served as a "house- mother" for the younger women, he said.
The house was similar to other brothels that the police cracked down on last year in Mount Hope, downtown, and the East Side, Casbarro said.
And there were the stories that the detectives heard frequently from neighbors on Federal Hill of traffic in and out of the house during the night and of truck drivers pulling over and running inside.
"The credit goes to the citizens, who continued to call us about this," Casbarro said.
The complaints about Mo Mo Therapy resumed a few weeks after the police first raided the agency in October soon after it opened and arrested two employees for prostitution.
Steele said that the agency chalked up the arrests to "bad seeds" and fired the women. But the police contacted him about more problems at the house, he said. "They are insisting that I evict them or be charged with creating a nuisance myself," Steele said.
Steele served an eviction notice against Mo Mo Therapy on Feb. 5, said his lawyer, Paul Giacobbe. The one-year lease had been negotiated by a lease agent but Giacobbe said he could not identify the name on that lease.
The civil court process is slow the eviction notice was issued weeks before a second prostitution bust last Friday.
Working undercover that afternoon, Detective Roger Aspinall was bathed and massaged by the women, then offered a sex act for $ 50. Aspinall refused, left the house, then returned with other detectives to arrest three women.
Hae-Sook Lim, 40, of Flushing, N.Y., was charged with loitering for prostitution and conducting a massage without a state license, after she allegedly solicited Aspinall.
Hae-Sook Choi, 49, of Bayside, N.Y., who allegedly bathed the detective, and Shee Hee Park, 56, of Springfield, Va., who allegedly was caught massaging another man, were both charged with conducting a massage without a state license. All the charges are misdemeanors.
Steele said he's concerned that the crackdown is an instrument of prejudice against a minority-owned business. Casbarro said there's no doubt in his mind that the Korean women at the massage parlor were agents for prostitution.
"I'm hoping this is the coup de grace for this place," Casbarro said.