Anchorage police on Tuesday raided a massage parlor that for years has operated as a front for prostitution, a vice unit investigator said.
The latest bust marks the sixth time since 2002 that police have caught employees at Tropic Massage offering sex for money, said Sgt. Kathy Lacey.
Officers arrested Myong Gin Chow, 46, who is accused of practicing prostitution, and Dong Ki, 60, who is charged with maintaining a place for prostitution and resisting arrest. The women face misdemeanor charges, but investigators also hope to nab their boss or bosses for a more serious offense, Lacey said.
"We're always looking for who's running these women," Lacey said. "We're trying to get the person who's making money from what they're doing."
"My goal is not to arrest the women, because I see them as victims," she said.
The massage parlor is in a strip mall on the 2400 block of East Tudor Road, just east of Lake Otis Parkway. Shades cover the windows.
At about 11 or 11:30 a.m., an undercover investigator went inside.
Lacey wouldn't talk in detail about what happened next. The vice unit supervisor said only that the investigator at some point made a deal to pay for sex.
Officers later returned with a search warrant and Ki tried to run out the back door, Lacey said. Both women were handcuffed and taken to jail, she said.
Evidence inside the shop pointed to prostitution, Lacey said.
"We're finding condoms. Lots of condoms," she said. "And they have beds inside there, which is pretty typical of these places."
Police conduct similar prostitution stings once or twice a month, Lacey said. "There's enough we could probably do one a week," she said.
Identifying the owners can be tricky, Lacey said.
The suspected prostitutes are usually uncooperative or claim ignorance, and business licenses for the massage parlors often list untraceable corporation names as owners, she said.
Lacey said she planned to notify the owners of the strip mall of the alleged, repeated criminal activity at Tropic Massage. If Tropic Massage isn't subsequently evicted, city prosecutors could decide to go after the property itself, she said.
The city could pursue the matter under nuisance laws that hold owners accountable for maintaining a place that's regularly used for criminal activity, Lacey said.
"(Following) a certain number of calls to a place then the place can be seized," she said. "These places don't traditionally generate a lot of calls for service for the APD, but we've done now six operations in here, so it is definitely affecting the city, and it's affecting how much time and energy we're putting into investigating it."
Calls to Tropic Massage went unanswered.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE