NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Senior Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- Investigators are looking to speak to a woman who has ties to two massage parlors raided by police Tuesday as part of a human trafficking and prostitution investigation that has "significant" ties to Flushing, N.Y., a well-known hub for that criminal activity.
Cozy Spa on North Street and Green Spa on Main Street were searched by Bennington Police, FBI agents and Vermont State Police Tuesday afternoon. They believe as many as 10 women may have been forced to work in Bennington at the spas.
Affidavits used by investigators to obtain search warrants became public Wednesday morning after police returned them to Bennington Superior Court Criminal Division. They include reviews of the massages and sexual contact that have allegedly occurred at both spas that clients have posted on the message boards of various Websites.
According to the affidavit, a woman named Inson Everitt is linked to both spas. She is a former owner of Cozy Spa, when the 240 North St. location was known as Far East Massage Therapy. Everitt is also listed as an agent of Green Spa, according to the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office.
Bennington Police Detective Sgt. David S. Rowland, the lead investigator, wrote in the search warrant affidavit that a background check on Everitt was performed by an FBI agent and returned "a history that involves prostitution related arrests."
An investigator said Wednesday said it was unclear if any of the out-of-state charges had resulted in convictions. "Clearly, there’s things that we would like to know concerning Inson," the officer said.
However, police have not been able to locate Everitt. She has ties to other states, including Flushing, N.Y., the investigator said. Local police have learned from other law enforcement personnel that Flushing is where many victims of human trafficking pass through.
"I wouldn’t call it an entry point. My understanding is that it’s more of a distribution point," the investigator said. "It’s a hub of that sort of activity."
Cozy Spa is now owned by Young Shin, who has a history of criminal charges in Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas related to prostitution. The affidavit does not indicate if any convictions resulted from the charges.
Shin told the Banner on Tuesday that no criminal activity has occurred at Cozy Spa and said police were conducting a routine check.
Rowland’s affidavit alleges criminal activity, however.
Local police launched an investigation into the North Street massage parlor in the summer of 2011 based upon "rumors" police had heard, and from a neighbor reporting "moans" coming from men. The FBI was also looking into the business as part of a human trafficking investigation involving Asian massage parlors in Vermont.
An undercover officer was sent to the former business, Far East Massage Therapy, which was also known as R&R Health Studio at one point. There was no solicitation for sex but the officer reported "business practices that are not what they should be."
Police responded to Far East Massage on Aug. 12, 2011, according to the affidavit, after Ed McDonough, the boyfriend of Everitt, reported an unwanted person. He told police he had hired a masseuse, but she was intoxicated and refusing to leave. Police encountered Sarah Bak, who "obviously intoxicated" and inside a locked room.
According to the affidavit, Bak told police she had answered an ad in a Korean newspaper for a position as a manager of a massage therapy business in Bennington. Bak told police she was promised pay between $200 and $300 per day. Bak said she left her home in Burke, Va., and arrived in Bennington on Aug. 5, 2011.
Police responded to the spa again on Sept. 24, 2011, for a sexual harassment complaint. A Korean female named Kissock Kim alleged she was touched inappropriately by McDonough and said he threatened to kill her. She told police she had arrived two days before to help her friend Young Sook Kim -- whom police said is Young Shin, the current owner of Cozy Spa -- who was planning to purchase the business from McDonough and Everitt.
Everitt is listed by the Vermont Secretary of State as the owner of a massage therapy business in Rutland, under the Far East Massage Therapy name. Both McDonough and Everitt are listed as owners of McDonough & Son Movers in Burlington.
Complaints from neighbors of Cozy Spa are included in the affidavits. In November 2011, police said a tenant in the same building could hear "noises/moans from men at all hours of the day." Neighbors reported that only men, an average of four to five per day, would enter the business. Most of the clients drove cars with out-of-state license plates.
In Feb. 2012, an upstairs neighbor heard a man "’moaning and groaning’ in a sexual way," Rowland wrote.
Police conducted several interviews with people seen entering Green Spa by local police and FBI agents during surveillance operations. None of the men police spoke with admitted to receiving any sexual acts, however.
Several online reviews of both Cozy Spa and Green Spa were included in the affidavits. One, posted by "SilverFox69" on Aug. 9, 2012, described a massage that included sexual acts. Another user, "Koii32," reported in a posting that he had an experience similar to SilverFox 69 at Green Spa.
An online post about Cozy Spa left on a website by user "Kkelly" indicated that the woman performing his massage offered him a massage "upgrade" for $100, which he declined because of the cost, according to the review.
Rowland wrote that a 20-year-old male was sent to Green Spa in August 2012 as a gift from the pizza restaurant that employed him. The male paid $80 for a 60-minute massage. The employee reported back to his boss that the Asian female that performed his massage was in her 50s. About halfway through the massage she asked the male if he had pain in his groin and performed a sexual act. The manager of the pizza restaurant told police he had previously seen two Asian females inside the spa.
Rowland said Tuesday that investigators had evidence indicating that human trafficking and prostitution has occurred at both spas. He said activity at Green Spa may be linked to a larger ring, he said, while any criminal activity at Cozy Spa appears to be isolated.
Court documents show that police seized computers, phones, bank statements, appointment books, business cards, calendars, receipts and $1,937 in cash from Cozy Spa. Similar items, but no cash, were listed on paperwork related to the search of Green Spa.
Many of the hundreds of pages of documents seized are in a foreign language. Bennington Police said they plan to enlist an official interpreter to help translate the documents that would later be able testify in court if required.
Police said it will take time to sort and analyze the evidence collected. However, criminal charges are expected as a result of the investigation.
Contact Neal P. Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami