By Katta Hules
On March 31, Arcadia Spa was raided on suspicion of prostitution. Two massage therapists were arrested.
This week in front of the city council, Owner Bao Gui Sun and accused therapists Xinhong Huang and Ai Hong Li fought against the revocation of their business licenses.
Criminal charges against the therapists are pending, as is their sexual assault compliant against the undercover detective Steve Castillo.
Sun, through his interpreter Joseph Lee, in a sworn statement alleged the police deleted exonerating statements in the recording of the investigation, disconnected the Spa’s surveillance camera, denied their case access to Castillo’s records (an action upheld by a judge at a previous criminal hearing), and sexually assaulted his employees. “Where is the justice and morality in these actions?”
Sun’s attorney, Steve Thomas, said Sun “has run a successful and compliant massage business in this city for 11 years,” and asked the council postpone the deliberations until after the criminal case.
Huang and Li submitted written statements to the council, against the advice of their lawyers. In these statements they claimed to reject the detective’s alleged advances by saying “no” and moving out of his reach. However, at their lawyers’ advisement, they did not speak at the meeting.
Mayor Tom Beck counted seven instances of alleged sexual assault in Huang’s account. “It seems to me that after one of these things she should have sent him packing, but rather, seven things happen and the next thing she does is call in her co-worker to come in to be exposed to the same thing. Tell me how that makes sense?” It was a statement he reiterated several times.
“Sometimes it is very difficult for them to handle these situations … they are afraid of [the customers,]” said Sun, saying his employees feared retribution from angry customers. “This business is very risky, in terms of customers.”
When asked by Council Member April Verlato what was done to protect his employees in these situations, he said they do not close the door all the way, the surveillance camera could record the sounds in the rooms and “if they know the customer upfront is bad, they will not accept their service.” He did not have anyone there for the employees to go to if physically intimidated. He suggested the employee would call 911 instead.
Verlato pointed out Sun had just said his therapists were too afraid of retaliation to call. “What I’m hearing is Mr. Sun does not provide a very safe environment for his massage therapists.” Sun protested other massage businesses in the area did not have security guards. “It doesn’t have to be a security guard,” Verlato said, and then asked for a physical description of the receptionist. Sun said at the time there was none. “As a measure of security, he always ha[s] three girls working there so they can help each other,” said Lee.
When asked by Beck what Sun tells his therapists to do when threatened, he said “the first approach is always to ask the customer to leave, if the customer get[s] aggressive then they call [the] police,” but claimed it was not a common occurrence.
At the time of the alleged assault there were no calls to 911 – Sun claims there was no time. When asked why the other two employees did not call “when the door was open and the sound could travel” by Council Member Sho Tay, Sun responded saying he did not know why they kept asking him the same question over and over.
Sun was not present during the incident and claims to visit his business infrequently.
There is no footage of the incident or the raid. Sun claims the camera was disconnected and because the recordings were only kept for a 24-hour period and the camera was later reconnected, the footage of the raid was recorded over. “He knew his two employees got arrested. Wouldn’t it be important at that point to get the video before it gets recorded over?” asked Beck. Lee said Sun was not technically competent and did not think of it at the time.
During his summation, Beck pointed out the police were stretched thin and only investigated businesses after they get several complaints. Castillo was less likely to lie about the incident because he would “lose his job at the Arcadia police department … [and] lose his career because he’s not going to be able to be hired by any other police department.”
All three of the appellants had their licenses revoked unanimously.