In Annandale, investigators battling human trafficking in our area recently uncovered an Asian massage parlor that was also a full-blown brothel in a busy office park just steps from the intersection of Braddock and Backlick roads.
The former owner pleaded guilty to two federal felonies in Alexandria last week. But when I went by to check the place out, a woman in heavy makeup and hot pants assured me they were still open. She was less clear when I asked if it was still a house of prostitution, and then closed the door.
Susan Lee Gross, 46, admitted in court that her business, Peach Therapy, was a full service brothel that regularly employed a cab company and a marketing agent, and that she had laundered nearly $250,000 in proceeds over 15 months. Investigators found that patrons of Peach Therapy included a pastor, an OB-GYN, employees of defense contractors, commissioned officers of the U.S. military and individuals who held security clearances, according to federal court records.
For more than a year, Peach Therapy had about 30 customers per day paying Gross a “house fee” of $80 for an hour, $60 for a half-hour, just to walk in the door, the “Statement of Facts” signed by Gross states. This all occurred in one of the business townhouses directly behind the Giant grocery at the Bradlick Shopping Center.
The statement of facts is below. More details after the jump.
Gross, of South Korea, admitted that she became a U.S. citizen through a fraudulent marriage to a man whose initials are “MSG.” She owned and operated Peach Therapy at 5053B Backlick Road from February 2011 to May of this year.
Gross told authorities she used a cab company to pick up her employees, either at an apartment she rented or to retrieve them from New York and New Jersey. She also said she paid a man in Atlantic City almost $1,800 per month to place ads for and post positive reviews of Peach Therapy on not only Craigslist and Backpage, which are notorious prostitution indexes, but other more specific online brothel guides.
Gross also used another Korean woman to open a bank account to launder Peach Therapy’s proceeds, always in amounts of less than $10,000. And two surveillance cameras were installed above the front door, to monitor the exterior and any visitors. Those appear to still be in place as well.
No one came out or said anything when I showed up and began snapping pictures. But when I rang the bell, the aforementioned provocatively attired woman appeared.
I told her I was with The Washington Post, and asked if they were still open. Oh yes, we’re open, she said. Then I said there had been an interesting press release from the federal government, and was this a house of prostitution?
“Oh, I don’t know, me,” she said. She said that twice. Before I could ask any other hard-hitting questions, she closed the door.
I asked the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria why they were still open. Peter Carr, the office spokesman, said they had charged the former owner, Gross, and would not comment further. So it would appear Peach Therapy is still rolling on.
Sure enough, on Backpage.com, they have a very colorful ad, posted Monday. “Our Staff smile will warm you,” it promises, “and our hands will melt your stress and tension away! Sensation Asian ladies to choose from.”
“Peach Therapy was nothing but a front for a prostitution ring,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said in a statement. “This conviction is the result of an ongoing investigation into the sale of sexual services at Northern Virginia massage parlors as part of my office’s crackdown on sex trafficking in the region,”and was investigated by the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force.
No doubt these are difficult, time-consuming investigations. And to look at this list on Backpage.com, the difficulty of sorting out legitimate from illegitimate parlors must be daunting. But this case was a dramatic reminder of the sleazy business occurring all over NoVa, this one near one of Fairfax County’s busier intersections and shopping centers.