Inver Grove Heights massage parlor owner charged with sex trafficking


Herb Spa in Inver Grove Heights raised the suspicion of law enforcement because of its minimal signage and guests having to ring a bell to be let in. On July 22 its owner was charged with four counts of second-degree prostitution. (Hannah Burlingame photos/Review)

An Inver Grove Heights massage parlor owner was charged July 22 with trafficking women. 

Xueyan Wang, 40 of Inver Grove Heights, was charged with four counts of second-degree prostitution in relation to activities she allegedly organized as the owner-operator of Herb Spa, which is in the Arbor Pointe strip mall. 

Each felony count carries a maximum sentence of 15 years and/or a fine of up to $40,000.

“These allegations are disturbing,” Dakota County James Backstrom said in a press release. “Trafficking individuals is an act against humanity, and we are committed to aggressively pursuing crimes of this nature in our community.”

Wang’s first court appearance was July 22, where her bail was set at $750,000 without conditions, or $375,000 with conditions. 

According to court documents, beginning in March of 2019 the Inver Grove Heights Police Department began investigating the massage parlor, which Wang opened in 2017.

 

Suspicious reviews

Court documents say Herb Spa came under suspicion because it has minimal signage on its storefront and customers were required to ring a doorbell to be let in — the front door was locked at all time.

Officers checked reviews for the business on a website commonly used to provide information on what illicit services could be obtained at various massage parlors. 

Reviews for Herb Spa began in July of 2017, according to court documents. One reviewer provided what sex acts he was able to receive and perform on a masseuse, naming and giving a description of her. 

The most recent review was posted in November 2018. The reviewer said it had been his second time there and both times he’d paid for a sex act, court documents say. The man provided a description of a woman. 

“Further reviews encourage other reviewers to be discrete as to not alert law enforcement,” court documents say.

 

Building a case

Police kept an eye on Herb Spa from March of this year through July, 19. The clientele was predominately white middle-aged men, who were identified as coming from all over the metro area, including St. Michael, Circle Pines and Shoreview.

Surveillance revealed those operating and employed by the business appeared to be living inside it, which is in violation of city code, court documents say.

Police obtained a search warrant to place a GPS tracker on Wang’s vehicle. On April 2, she went to Costco where she purchased Natrol mood enhancer pills, body wash, baby wipes, skin and nail gummies, cranberry pills, hand towels, a queen-sized blanket, laundry detergent, air fresheners, bleach, hand soap, makeup remover toilettes, a 40-pack of toilet paper and a variety of food.

Court documents allege Wang also made several runs to and from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. 

A review of Wang’s bank account showed her issuing checks to purchase plane tickets, pay for advertising on a website formerly operated as Backpage.com and to wire money to an account in China from her personal checking account. 

On July 9, an officer made contact with a man after he left Herb Spa. The man said he had been to the business more than a dozen times and each time paid women at the business to perform sexual acts with him, court documents say.

The man said he paid $65 upon entry and always paid in cash. After sex, he would provide a tip to the employee, typically for $65. He gave officers the names of two women who provided him sexual acts but neither were Wang, court documents say.

An officer made contact with another man July 15 after he left the massage parlor. The man told police he had taken part in sex acts and corroborated the payment procedure. 

 

Searching the business

Police executed a search warrant July 19 at Herb Spa, finding two women who were living in the back of the business. Court documents say there were no traditional massage tables in the massage rooms, but rather mattresses on wooden crates.

One of the women agreed to speak with law enforcement and allegedly indicated Wang owned the business, court documents say. She told police she came from California and had been working at the business since February. The woman said she paid Wang rent and Wang kept half the profit she made for services provided. 

Officers found individualized bundles of money labeled by day and women. The bundles dated back to around June 10, totaling about $13,000. 

Court documents say officers located a notepad in one of the rooms that was a ledger with abbreviations for various services and corresponding prices. The search also found condoms, baby wipes and large amounts of lubricant throughout the business.

A safety deposit box allegedly belonging to Wang contained $42,940. 

While officers were executing the search warrant at Herb Spa, Wang walked into the business carrying groceries. She was placed under arrest and transported to Dakota County Jail. Her next court appearance is Aug. 15 in Hastings.

 

—Hannah Burlingame

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