Apex police charge prostitution at massage parlor has statewide links

Police arrested a Durham resident Thursday on charges of promoting or advertising prostitution involving a massage parlor on East Williams Street and operating a continuing criminal enterprise that police said appears to involve massage and other businesses in Johnston and Wake counties and in Charlotte, Wilmington and Greensboro.

Quan Chun Li, 53, was charged in an arrest warrant that police obtained Monday. He lives at 632 Wind River Parkway, an apartment complex that is in Durham, but has a Morrisville mailing address.

Monday, Seong Fan Chen, 41, and Xin Lan Chao, 50, were arrested at the Touch of Asia massage business at 811 E. Williams St. when police went into the business with a search warrant and seized “several thousands of dollars,” a statement issued Friday said.

The women, who were listed as living together in an apartment on Saunders Street, were charged with practicing massage without a license.

The three arrests grew out of an investigation Apex police had been conducting and that Capt. C. Blair Myhand said is continuing.

In the criminal enterprise charge, police said there had been “a continuing series of violations” of the law. The statute under which Li was charged is within the section governing drugs, but does not apply specifically to drugs.

Myhand said other law enforcement agencies have made arrests involving businesses that have “a direct connection” to Touch of Asia.

Investigators learned that women are being brought from China after they answered advertisements to work in the U.S. After the women arrive, they are told they owe money and are sent to brothels, exotic dance clubs and massage parlors to work off the debt, Myhand said.

Arrest papers showed that Li is Chinese by birth.

The continuing enterprise charge alleged that Li was acting “in concert with five or more persons with respect to whom the defendant occupied a position of organizer, [a] supervisory position and other management positions.”

The charge also said Li “obtained substantial income and resources” from the enterprise, but it gave no details about what police believe was involved or how much they believe Li got.

The women arrested at Touch of Asia have been freed on bail.

Li was held on $500,000 bail for a Friday court appearance. A magistrate labeled him a flight risk and said he has to surrender his passport if he leaves jail.

Touch of Asia was incorporated in North Carolina in April 2014, but it was dissolved as a corporation 10 months later, according to the Secretary of State’s records. At that time, a man named Mengxun Wang was listed as president. It’s not clear what the business’ legal status is now.

Myhand said police consider Li to be the owner of Touch of Asia.

Ron Gallagher: 919-829-4572, @RPGKT