Massage parlor chain argues to reopen doors during human trafficking investigation

Witnesses, investigators and suspects testify in human trafficking case

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A chain of massage parlors in the Valley is fighting to reopen its doors as it’s being investigated for alleged human trafficking and forcing women to perform sexual acts on customers.

The businesses operate in Huntsville under the names Health Massage and Massage Foot Care, and in Madison and Decatur under the name Massage Foot Care.

The chain locations were forced to shut down in April after a Madison County court ordered a temporary restraining order.

All assets have been frozen, and a receiver was appointed by the court to take control of the businesses.

Monday, the attorneys for the business argued the state has deprived employees of their money, jobs, and home without cause.

The Alabama Attorney General’s Office introduced witnesses, undercover investigators and men who admitted to soliciting sex from the employees who won’t face charges.

The state named their expert witness, Mike James, an investigator for the Alabama Board of Massage Therapy. James testified about different inspections he had done on the different massage parlor locations over the last few years.

James said when he would check on the businesses he noticed each door to the private massage rooms had a peephole on it so people outside of the room could look in.

On cross examination, James did admit the only illegal thing he ever saw for himself at any of the parlors was just unlicensed employees giving massages.

Another witness the state brought forward was Madison Police Investigator Teresa Taylor-Duncan, she said she began investigating the Massage Foot Care location in Madison after an anonymous tip came in from a person saying they had been inappropriately touched.

Taylor-Duncan said her and others at the Madison Police Department began immediate surveillance of the Madison location.

She said they discovered a connection between all four locations and quickly noticed a pattern of three different cars picking up employees from different houses in the Tennessee Valley, taking them to the massage parlors and then taking them home when the business closed.

Taylor-Duncan said these homes were located on Drake Ave. and Forest Dr. in Huntsville and Starchase Ln. in Madison.

At one point in the surveillance, Taylor-Duncan said they put a tracker on one of the cars and for about a month the tracker stayed stationary in the house on Forest Dr.

Taylor-Duncan said she eventually got a search warrant to go get the tracker out of the home, Madison Police officers, along with representatives from the Department of Home Land Security searched the Forest Dr. home on Dec. 20, 2018.

Inside of the home, Taylor-Duncan said investigators found two bedrooms with multiple twin mattresses on the floor, plus bags filled with rolls of money and different documents.

Taylor-Duncan said investigators were able to find the tracker and also spoke with manager Yuping Tang.

Also in December, Taylor-Duncan said she questioned a man who was an avid customer at the Madison location. That man testified before court on Tuesday and admitted to going their and paying an employee for sexual acts.

During the Tuesday hearing, prosecution explained this man does not have any sort of deal with the state to testify and he will not be prosecuted.

The state also called another man to testify who was asked by James to go into one of the parlors undercover.

James said he instructed all of the undercover investigators to go into a parlor, ask for a massage and never let anything of sexual nature happen.

The undercover investigator who testified said he went into the Madison location three times om April 2, 6 and 9. On April 2, he said the employee attempted to pull his pants down twice and both times he refused and stopped her. He said the employee also made him feel uncomfortable during the massage by touching his privates.

On April 6 and 9, the undercover investigator said he got a massage from a different employee who asked “yes or no” before trying to pull down his pants. The man said other than that, there was nothing wrong with the massage.

During cross examination the defense asked if the undercover investigator had ever gone into any of the other parlors undercover.

The investigator said he also went to the South Parkway location in Huntsville three times, he said each time he was there nothing made him feel uncomfortable.

Ultimately, the investigation led to a Temporary Restraining Order being filed by the county to stop the message companies from operating and the April raid on the businesses and homes associated with the owners.

Both sides declined to comment.

The case picks back up Wednesday morning.

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