Police: Independence massage therapy business was used as front - KCTV5

Police: Independence massage therapy business was used as front for prostitution

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Emily Rittman/KCTV5 Emily Rittman/KCTV5
INDEPENDENCE, MO (KCTV) -

Investigators say an undercover investigation revealed a massage therapy business was a front for prostitution in Independence.

They seized electronics, documents and stashed cash from the business off east 39th Street near Noland Road.

Detectives say the business came on their radar when they saw them advertising massages on Backpage.com. They then set up a sting that led to charges. 

The flashing neon lights at the business are no longer on and several men tried to go inside, only to discover the front door was locked. 

"They really only had hours outside of what normal people would work," said Kellie Mintzalff, who works nearby. "It was always men that came. There was never women."

One of the men who visited in September was an undercover officer. He says 54-year-old Fulan Li told him he could pay $150 to have sex with her. 

Court records show he made up a story about his boss needing him back at work. He says he came back and negotiated for sex a second time in October and Li accepted $180 for sex. That's when he gave the "bust signal" and officers arrested Li, who is now charged with two counts of prostitution. 

About $22,000 was found in locations throughout the business. 

Last September, Independence police conducted a similar sting less than a half mile away at Massage Therapy on Noland Road.

In that investigation, 30-year-old Shuzen Shen was charged with several counts of prostitution. She ultimately pleaded guilty to a peace disturbance.

Court records say Zhe Li appeared to be the boss at Massage Therapy and was a registered owner of the business. She pleaded guilty to a peace disturbance charge. 

That prostitution investigation into Massage Therapy began when someone wrote an anonymous letter to police telling them employees were being forced to perform sex acts against their will.

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