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Prostitution Charged at 2 Massage Parlors : Law enforcement: Undercover operations lead to arrests of employees at establishments on Gower Street and Melrose Avenue. Charges filed against owners.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

City Atty. James Hahn has filed both criminal and civil actions against the operators of two massage parlors in the Westside, which he described as “nothing but fronts for prostitution.”

Named in the two criminal complaints and one civil lawsuit filed late last Friday by the city are Calabasas residents Yu Ron Chung, 42, and his wife, Kyung Hwi Chung, 41, Hahn said. He said the two operate a massage parlor at 5916 Melrose Ave., known as the Kiku Studio, and another at 867 N. Gower St., which bears the sign, Oriental Spa.

Los Angeles Police Department undercover operations at the Kiku Studio have led to the arrests of more than 12 massage technicians on prostitution charges, Hahn said.

Vice officers who have posed as massage customers at the two establishments over the past few years have been routinely offered sex for money, said Deputy City Atty. Michael Guarino, who handles criminal prosecutions of houses of prostitution.

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He said undercover officers also have observed massage technicians nude with customers, and on one occasion at the Kiku Studio, officers found a technician in the act of having sex with a customer in a massage room, Guarino said. The customer later admitted to paying $80 for the service, Guarino said.

“The history of these businesses makes it very evident that regardless of what the signs out front may say,” Hahn said, “they are nothing but fronts for prostitution.”

The Chungs could not be reached for comment, and their lawyer did not return phone calls Wednesday. No one responded to knocks at the doors of both massage parlors late Tuesday, and the Kiku Studio had a “closed” sign out front.

But Guarino said both parlors are continuing to do business.

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In the case of the parlor on Gower Street, Hahn has charged the Chungs with a criminal violation of the city’s Adult Entertainment Ordinance, which makes it a crime punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine to operate an adult business within 500 feet of a residential area, school, religious institution or public park. Guarino said the parlor, across the street from Paramount Studios, is next to a residential area.

In the case of the Melrose Avenue parlor, which is next to a preschool, the Chungs are criminally charged with one count each of using the business for purposes of prostitution. As a result, they are also charged with creating a public nuisance. Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

The city also is trying to close the Gower Street parlor through civil action under the California Red Light Abatement Act, which would allow the city to get a court injunction setting strict conditions on the business while efforts continue to close it permanently.

Authorities are prevented from taking action to shut down the Kiku Studio under the abatement act because the Chungs have received a temporary exemption from its provisions due to economic hardship, Guarino said.

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The Chungs are set for arraignment on the criminal charges Oct. 24, Guarino said.

Another deputy city attorney, Henry Burr, is handling the civil lawsuit and is in the process of seeking a hearing date for a preliminary injunction, Burr said Wednesday.

In addition to the criminal and civil actions, the Los Angeles Police Commission has initiated proceedings to revoke the massage parlor permits held by both establishments, Guarino said. He said the permit for Kiku Studio was suspended previously, for 15 days in 1986, after inspectors found numerous violations of Police Commission rules regulating the operation of massage parlors.

Meanwhile, there are ongoing investigations into several other massage parlors in the Westside and other parts of the city, Guarino said.

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“There are assumptions by vice officers that there are other massage parlors at which some serious prostitution is going on,” he said.

Guarino said he could not release any details of the investigations because authorities are working undercover, and no charges have been filed against the locations.


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