BACLIFF, Texas The sign out front advertised that the Santa Fe Spa in Bacliff is always open. But the Galveston County Sheriff s Office said the spa it raided Tuesday was no massage parlor; it was a brothel.
Two women were arrested on prostitution charges. Galveston County Sheriff s Capt. Barry Cook said a spa customer in the business at the time of the raid and who was moon up on the bed, avoided charges and was let go.
The spa was under surveillance for about two weeks in which undercover investigators video recorded workers offering to perform sex acts for cash, Cook said.
The spa, in the 1000 block of Grand Avenue, even had an ATM in the front lobby to make transactions easier for customers, Cook said.
Based on the investigation, Cook said the business operated by charging the customer a room fee of $60.
That s when the girl would come up front and take the customer to one of the service rooms, Cook said. She would then negotiate the price for sex. Oral sex would be $100 and $160 for intercourse.
The spa opened about six weeks ago, but sheriff s investigators were tipped to possible prostitution from a phone call and an e-mail that came through the sheriff s website and its Police-2-Citizen portal that, in addition to listing incidents and inmate searches, also has a function that allows residents to make anonymous tips, Cook said.
Undercover investigators wired with video cameras posed as customers but never got far enough along to actually disrobe, Cook said. Each would find a way to leave soon after one of the workers solicited sex, Cook said.
The solicitation is enough to get charges, he said.
The owner of the spa is believed to be from Florida, Cook said. The owner of the building is a League City real estate firm, according to Galveston Central Appraisal District records.
Both of the women arrested Tuesday had Texas identification, but Cook said because the women were from Houston, investigators were looking into possible connections to a larger prostitution ring. A deputy fluent in Vietnamese was brought in to help question the women.
There were no indications the business was part of a sex slave operation, Cook said, but that, too, was being investigated.
The spa raid was a first of this type of prostitution bust in at least four years for the sheriff s office, Cook said.
We have enough problems with all the game rooms in this area, Cook said. This was one thing Bacliff didn t need.
Unlike the game room busts, proving the prostitution cases will be much easier, Cook said.
In addition to the arrests, deputies seized the ATM and a lock box that Cook said normally would be used to drop the $60 room fee, but in this case only contained an employment application.
The spa manager s car, which had bumper stickers indicating support for police and promoting one of her children as an honor student, also was confiscated.
Investigators also seized video recording equipment that was locked away in the spa s attic. There were several security cameras outside the building and inside the lobby, but there was no indication there were cameras in the three service rooms.
The reported manager of the spa, Tuyet Thi Tran, 31, of Houston, was charged with felony aggravated promotion of prostitution and was being held at the county jail on $10,000 bond.
One of the spa employees, Jean Chung, 56, of Houston, was charged with misdemeanor prostitution and was being held on $1,500 bond.
This story was brought to you thanks to khou.com s partnership with The Galveston County Daily News.