A massage parlor on West Main Street in Kent was among at least 16 across Northeast Ohio raided Wednesday by state and federal authorities as part of a long-term prostitution investigation.

Police executed search warrants at Reflex Massage on Wednesday afternoon as part of a wide-ranging commercial prostitution investigation that started in 2017 and spanned seven counties.

At least 13 businesses throughout the region — including operations in Wooster, Medina and Strongsville — and three residences in Brunswick were among the initial locations where warrants were executed Wednesday, said Greg A. Croft, special agent in charge with the Ohio Investigative Unit of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. An undisclosed residence in Kent also was searched as part of the investigation, and more locations could be targeted.

The raids came after a Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted six people on charges of promoting prostitution. Among those indicted: Jia Yue Dong, 42, Cui Rong Chen, 44, Fei Wang, 41, and Yan Wang, 41, all of Brunswick; Chengqiang Yu, 48, of North Royalton; and Robert Swartz, 50, of Copley.

A Medina County grand jury also indicted Yulian Fu, 50, of North Royalton, on the same charge.

Croft said the operation involved a website where clients were paid members and logged in to share information on sexual services allegedly provided at the massage parlors.

“I’ve been a vice cop for 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of this,” he said.

He noted the businesses operated in plain sight; one was located next to a day care center.

Croft said the investigation started in Perkins Township outside Sandusky following a request by police there in 2017. Police had made prostitution arrests there in 2016, only to have the business reopen several days later.

“We could have been in and done with this investigation in 30 days if we had wanted to, but we went a different route,” he said. “We tried to take the head off the snake, so to speak.”

The investigation spread to Brunswick, where four of seven men indicted last week live.

Local business owners said they thought something seedy was going on after Reflex Massage opened on West Main Street a few years ago, just three doors down in the same building as the Kent Parks and Recreation Department’s Fitness Center.

“I just knew that more than massages was going on over there,” said Michael Longitano, who owns the West Main Street restaurant next door to Reflex Massage. “Just by the traffic and life in general, I mean, it’s not too tough to figure out.”

Longitano and other business owners in the area said much of the traffic took place in the evenings, when almost exclusively male clientele would park around the side or in back of the building, or across the street. Only two or three women appeared to work at the establishment, they said.

One of the local business owners, who asked not to be named, said he thought the fact that the business was open from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., with so few workers, appeared to be a sign of suspicious activity there.

Croft said there were one to four women working at each location.

The women, many of whom do not speak English, are being treated as witnesses at this point, Croft said. Some of the women are U.S. citizens whose first language is not English; others are from Asian countries.

No evidence of human trafficking has been discovered at this time, Croft said.

“The problem is we have a major language barrier and we’re working through our interpreters on that,” he said, adding victims services are available if necessary.

The search warrants were executed at the following locations:

JC Relaxing Inc., also known as Relax Massage, 3321 Center Road, Brunswick.

Hua Nan Massage (formerly SJ Relax Inc.), 4004 Milan Road, Unit A, Perkins Township.

Robust Asian Massage LLC, 16360 Pearl Road, Strongsville.

SC Relax Inc., 14403 Pearl Road, Strongsville.

Sunny H. Reflex Inc., 7914 Broadview Road, Broadview Heights.

Relax Inc., 1211 W. Main St., Kent.

Lucky Jade LLC., 2747 Medina Road, Medina.

Ming Relax Inc., 4000 Oberlin Ave., Unit 2, Lorain.

Bamboo Relaxing Massage Inc., 2522 Cleveland Road, Unit A; Wooster.

W&D Relax Inc.,1523 Lexington Ave., Unit A, Mansfield.

Sun GR Reflect Inc., 17456 Lorain Ave., Unit A, Cleveland.

Sun GR Reflect Inc., 26761 Royalton Road, Columbia Station.

Posh Massage Inc., 37300 Detroit Road, Avon

1299 Old Eagle Drive #M5, Brunswick

1287 Old Eagle Drive, No. 109, Brunswick

411 Plymouth Court, Brunswick.

 

Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-322-5892 or emarotta@recordpub.com.