A Warren massage parlor suspended by the health department after officials found an employee helping a naked customer shower was re-opened Thursday after both sides reached an agreement before an appeals hearing.
City officials and an attorney for the spa met before a hearing Thursday in front of the city Board of Appeals and agreed on a 45-day suspension that ended the same day.
The spa was ordered closed April 1 for 90 days after Warren Deputy Health Commissioner Robert Pinti found an employee, Min Hoppy, helping a naked customer shower during a surprise health inspection March 21. Officials said Hoppy was wearing a bikini at the time.
It was the spa’s second health code violation since January.
Pinti cited the spa because a customer’s genitals were exposed at the spa. Sunny Spa attorney Harry DePietro, representing owner UnSuk Cho, said Cho also agreed to dismiss pending litigation in Trumbull County Court involving the spa’s suspension.
DePietro said he was willing to take the case to court, the next step in the suspension appeal process. Pinti said it is unusual for suspension cases to be taken that far.
DePietro also said the city approved licensing for Cho to be a masseuse. She had submitted to a background check through both the state’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and the FBI as required by city code to obtain a massage license.
The FBI check had not been returned but the city approved the license based on the BCI check, DePietro said.
“My client is satisfied with this resolution,” DePietro said.
The violation was the spa’s second since Jan. 7, when inspectors found an unlicensed masseuse giving massages.
BCI investigators raided eight of the city’s 10 massage parlors in May 2012 and the city later shuttered all eight.
Records show spa customers from as far away as Shelby, a 120-mile trip, told investigators they paid for sex and sex acts at all eight spas raided.
BCI and the state attorney general’s office is currently reviewing evidence gathered from the spas, including computers, legers and DNA, to see if charges can be filed, including human trafficking, racketeering and money laundering, among others, according to court records and investigators.
About a month later, Braceville police raided the Four Seasons Spa, catching a customer and employee engaged in sex acts. The spa, opened by new owners under a new name, was raided again this year and shuttered by police under a nuisance-abatement claim filed in common pleas court. Two employees were eventually convicted of misdemeanor crimes.
Sunny is one of three spas remaining in Trumbull County. Officials have said the other two— the Tiger Spa in Warren and Niles’ Susi Kims— are being watched by officials. No charges have been filed against them.
Investigators at the time said the Tiger Spa was not targeted in the May raids because they were closed for renovations at the time. Officials said they have since re-opened, and an advertisement in the Cleveland Scene magazine appeared in the March 20 edition touting a grand opening.
Investigators said Sunny Spa was targeted in the investigation but were unable to establish surveillance as they had at the other eight spas.