Police heard rumblings of a prostitution ring at 88 Spa in Bridgeville not long after the massage parlor opened in the borough’s main business district in October 2011.
But investigators said they had to be patient to collect evidence and then work with federal authorities to find out if the ring also involved human trafficking or organized crime.
“We had info from neighboring businesses that it was pretty obviously what was going on there,” Bridgeville police Chief Chad King said. “But knowing something and proving it are two different things.”
By last July, King said they had enough evidence to make a case and contacted the FBI to ramp up the investigation. Federal investigators set up surveillance on the spa located across from Bridgeville’s main parking lot and sent in undercover agents.
King said they had been preparing the raid over the past month to make sure all agencies were on the same page.
A little past noon on Tuesday, an undercover police officer went into the spa and was allegedly offered “services.” He immediately notified authorities waiting outside and they arrested three women inside the massage parlor.
King said they arrested Ok Ja Ko, 52, of Aurora, Colo., Chong Hee Kil, 57, of Glenview Ill., and Heemae Jong, 58, of Fort Lee, N.J., on prostitution and conspiracy charges. Their preliminary hearings before District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet are scheduled for Feb. 11.
Bridgeville police also plan to cite the owner of the building, Kevin Biber, who is the tax collector for South Fayette Township and the school district. King said Biber denied knowing of the prostitution ring inside his building when interviewed by investigators Tuesday. But the police chief said he will still be cited for “keeping or maintaining a disorderly house” in accordance with borough code.
“He owns the building, so ultimately he’s responsible for everyone who’s in there,” King said.
King said the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement are now investigating if human trafficking or organized crime was involved in the prostitution ring.
He also thanked the community and town’s business leaders for their patience while investigators made sure they had enough evidence to raid the massage parlor.
“I want to thank them for being patient,” King said. “I hope they understand that this dealt with more than just prostitution.”
In 2008, Investigators raided and shut down two brothels fronting as massage parlors along University Boulevard in Moon Township. More than 60 were charged with prostitution-related crimes in Moon in 2011.