The former owner of an Annandale massage parlor pled guilty Thursday in federal court to charges of prostitution and money laundering, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced.
The former owner, Susan Lee Gross, also known as Ju Mee Lee Gross, 46, is originally from South Korea but now lives in Trinidad, Colo. She could face up to five years in prison for the prostitution charge and up to 20 years for money laundering.
The business, Peach Therapy, is still open in Annandale and an employee answered the phone there on Thursday. She said Gross had not been there in some time.
“Peach Therapy was nothing but a front for a prostitution ring that recruited and transported women from several states, and the owner laundered the profits to conceal the illegal nature of her business,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. “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. We will continue to identify and prosecute criminal organizations operating illicit businesses in our community.”
Lee Gross pled guilty to transporting women from other states to perform sexual services for patrons of Peach Therapy, according to information released by the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Most of the women were originally from South Korea and traveled to Annandale from New Jersey, New York and North Carolina. Some of the women traveled by bus from Chinatown in New York to D.C.'s Chinatown and were put up at a local apartment in Annandale rented by Lee Gross.
Customers who came to the massage parlor to pay for illicit services paid a flat fee of $60 to $80, and then participated in sexual activities that cost upwards of $400. Lee Gross took a cut and also paid the prostitutes, according to case documents released Thursday. The business usually saw about 30 customers per day and each prostitute generally made about $800 per day. As part of a plea agreement, Lee Gross has agreed to pay the government $248,409.
Customers were generally married men and included a pastor, a gynecologist, military officers and men with security clearances. Although most customers paid in cash, charges for those who paid with credit cards showed up as a phony business called South Blue Bay, Inc. The business was primarily advertised online.
Lee Gross was a naturalized citizen of the United States through a fraudulent marriage, according to the news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The illegal business took place from February 2011 to May 2012, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2013.
Multiple federal agencies participated in the investigation and prosecution of the case including the following people and agencies: MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; John P. Torres, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C.; Rick A. Raven, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Washington, D.C., Field Office; and John Wagner, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s (NCIS) Washington, D.C., Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
This case was investigated by HSI, which participates in the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force, and IRS-CI and NCIS. They were assisted in the investigation by the Fairfax County Police Department. Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Frank is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
For more news on area massage parlors, read:
Meet Jessica Johnson: Annandale's Anti-Trafficking Crusader
Authorities: Sex Trafficking a Problem at Some Local Massage Parlors
Illegal Massage Parlors: Rep. Wolf Asks for Further Investigation
Charges Filed Against Local Massage Parlors
Police Search Massage Parlor Near Edsall Road