An online ad for massages from Chinese women started a prostitution investigation that led to the arrest last week of a man and woman by Raleigh police, according to search warrants made public Monday.
The ad, found on a site that authorities watch for offers of illegal activities, promised “nude massages” and gave a phone number, Detective B. Huger said in asking Superior Court Judge A. Graham Shirley on Feb. 23 for permission to search the Cary home of Li Hong, 55, and the apartment just inside Durham where Junjun Chen, 29, was living.
Li and Chen were arrested Feb. 24 and charged with promoting prostitution and felony conspiracy.
Police already had received court approval to place a tracking device on Li’s car and documented it going to and from Chen’s, Huger noted. He said that research also had disclosed over 1,200 calls between Chen’s and Li’s cell phones between October last year and January.
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As the detective laid out the history to the judge, police had called the phone number in the ad on Dec. 16 and were directed to a room at the Extended Stay America hotel on Wake Town Drive, just inside the Beltline in North Raleigh.
An informant was sent into the room to negotiate a price for sex, and police moved in after that.
A woman they found there, who spoke no English but told a Chinese translator her name was Sai Wu, said she had arrived in the U.S. from China and being directed to Raleigh, the warrant application said. She told police that an Asian woman she didn’t know set up the online ad and scheduled customers.
The woman would call Wu on a cell phone and tell her when someone was coming to her room and how much they would pay, Huger said Wu told police.
A hotel manager said an Asian man and an Asian woman who said her name was Eva came to the hotel a little while after police did on Dec. 16 and said they couldn’t reach Wu, Huger’s application said. The woman left a phone number that police traced to Chen, he said.
A car the two drove had been rented to Li and to a Junjun Chen who used an address in Queens, N.Y. in New York City and gave the same phone number the manager was given at the hotel.
Police got driver’s license photos for Li from North Carolina and Chen from New York state and said they looked like the same people who came looking for Wu on Dec. 16. Li also seemed to be the man who had checked Wu into a room on Dec. 12, Huger wrote.
Detectives also got a court order for the website to divulge who had placed the ad for the massages, and the company gave police an email address that included “jujunchen.”
Bail was set at $1 million each for Li and Chen when they were arrested on charges of promoting prostitution and felony conspiracy.
Li was freed the day after his arrest, according to Wake County Sheriff’s Office records. Chen remained in custody. Both are due in court March 17.