Three massage establishments were shut down in February, the first full month of operation for the DOJ’s first Human Trafficking Unit (HTU).
“These investigations highlight a continuing pattern that we’ve seen time and time again: human trafficking often happens in plain sight,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “These were businesses that hundreds of people passed by each day without realizing the abuse that was happening behind their doors. In many cases, the defendants are fly-by-night serial business owners who will set up a new front as soon as one is shut down. This is what we’re up against, and it’s why our state needs to sustain a permanent and concerted campaign against this scourge. I’m grateful to the prosecutors and investigators who helped take down these fronts, and to the policymakers who have fought to put resources behind this fight.”
On February 2, Dream Spa, Wilmington, was closed and the patrons were evicted following an internal investigation by the HTU, in partnership with the Division of Professional Regulation, showing that Dream Spa had been operating at that location as an Illicit Massage Establishment (IME) for several years. This work was done with the cooperation of the property’s landlord.
On Feb. 7, Zen Holistic Healing, located near Wilmington, was closed and the patrons evicted following an internal investigation by the DOJ’s Human Trafficking Unit, in partnership with the Division of Professional regulation and Delaware State Police, showing that Zen Holistic Healing had been operating at that location since the summer of 2021. This investigation started following complaints made by neighbors in the community and was accomplished with the cooperation of the property’s landlord.
On Feb. 23, members of the Delaware State Police Troop 3 – Major Crimes Unit, in partnership with the FBI and investigators from the Division of Professional Regulation, executed a Search Warrant on Spa Wellness, Dover. The location had been under investigation by DSP and the Human Trafficking Unit since January.
Following the search warrant’s execution, two individuals involved with the operation of the business were arrested: Cui Ying, 47, was arrested and charged with Felony Promoting Prostitution 3rd Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Operating an Unlicensed Massage Establishment, and Prostitution. Dung M. Tran, 62, was arrested and charged with Felony Promoting Prostitution 3rd Degree, Conspiracy 2nd Degree, Felony Providing a False Statement to Law Enforcement, and Operating an Unlicensed Massage Establishment. Victim services specialists also helped provide assistance to an employee who was identified as a likely victim of human trafficking.
During the search warrant and subsequent arrests, approximately $7,000 in suspected illicit proceeds were seized as well as two vehicles known to be associated with the operation of the Dover establishment. Bail conditions included no contact with the victim as well as the prohibition of operating a Massage Establishment in the State of Delaware.
According to a release, before purchasing the Dover property, Ying was associated with New Sky Spa on Concord Pike in north Wilmington, which had been shut down through work by DOJ’s Civil Division in partnership with investigators from the Division of Professional Regulation. Almost immediately after New Sky Spa’s closure, Ying purchased the property that became Spa Wellness and began operating. Dung Tran had previously operated multiple parlors in the city of Dover, including one at the same address as Spa Wellness.
Areas of this investigation remain ongoing and prosecutors may consider additional charges depending on its findings.
The Human Trafficking Unit has worked to identify IMEs statewide and will continue to work with law enforcement partners, the Division of Professional Regulation, and landlords to close the businesses in the months ahead.