AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — A husband and wife accused of running a prostitution ring posing as a massage parlor in northwest Austin were caught after hundreds of condoms clogged part of their sewage system.
On Feb. 7, a detective was assigned to investigate Jade Massage Therapy, at 11416 N. Farm to Market 620 after getting a tip from the property’s management company about possible prostitution at the massage parlor. It was the second such tip the Austin Police Department had received in the last three months.
The company said they had recently taken over the property and became aware of the problem when an industrial waste disposal unit connecting the property to the city sewer became clogged and destroyed by the condoms, according to a police affidavit.
Several tenants had already contacted the company, concerned that prostitution was taking place at Jade Massage. Investigators found that husband and wife Joseph Emery, 54, and Juan Wang, 49, were listed as the tenants for the business.
Police found that just two days before, on Feb. 5, Wang was stopped during security screening at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after a number of small duct-taped bundles of cash were found in her carry-on luggage, totaling $30,000.
Wang told an officer she was on her way to China for a medical procedure and needed the money to pay for it. She said the money was from Jade Massage, where she claimed to make $20,000 a year. When the officer pointed out that she was carrying more than a year’s worth of income, police say Wang became “visibly nervous” and had difficulty answering any more questions.
She then told officers that her husband does their taxes. Police contacted Emery who said his wife keeps the money under a mattress at home and that it comes from their business. Wang was then allowed to continue on her way to China with the $30,000.
Detectives found that there were numerous advertisements for Jade Massage on backpage.com, a website police say is often used by people selling sexual services.
On March 7 and 15, detectives stopped men coming out of Jade Massage. The two men admitted to receiving sexual services in exchange for cash. Police say the clients who frequented the massage parlor would tip between $40-$120 on top of a standard $60 massage charge.
Police executed search warrants on both the business and the couple’s home on Alameda Trace Circle in northwest Austin on March 22. Wang was found inside the business with a completely naked man. A second naked man was found in another room with a female masseuse. A third woman was also found inside the business. Detectives say that in businesses associated with human trafficking, the prostitutes are also made to live inside the business.
At their home, more than $60,000 in cash was found inside a safe. Wang told officers that she would find women to work for her through a friend, but claimed to be unable to remember the friend’s name. She also claimed to be unable to name any woman, other than one of the women present during the search warrant, who had worked for her in the past year.
Both Wang and Emery, when interviewed by police, initially claimed that the other was in charge of the business and their cash.
Wang and Emery have been charged with both engaging in organized criminal activity and money laundering. Emery’s bond was set at $53,000 and Wang’s at $45,000. Neither were listed as currently held in the Travis County Jail.