Westerville police are continuing their investigation into activity at area massage businesses, a process that officials say has been going on for several months.
On Feb. 2, Westerville police searched an "Asian massage" parlor and reportedly detained two individuals, raiding the home of the business owner hours later.
Lt. Charles Chandler of the Westerville Division of Police said in an interview with local media following the search that the execution of a warrant at Crystal Asian Massage, 407 W. Main St., was "the result of several months of investigation."
"This business has been on our radar for quite some time," he said. "We understand citizens' concerns with businesses like these. Unfortunately, when there's an active investigation, we can't really share a lot."
According to a city release, the business had been under investigation since May 2017 based on "tips from anonymous sources." The business opened in November 2016.
Chandler confirmed that Crystal Asian Massage has "a shared business manager" with a similar business, Orchid Asian Spa, which has not yet opened at 535 S. Otterbein Ave.
The opening of Orchid Asian Spa has prompted concerns due to advertisements being posted on websites such as BackPage or Craigslist featuring risque photographs of women and suggestive phrases.
Given the recent public outcry on the topic, Chandler addressed residents in last week's interview.
"I would like to say that we understand your concern and we have been listening and we have been investigating," he said. "Unfortunately, when we have an open investigation, we can't let the people we're investigating know that we are (investigating)."
On two building permits for Orchid Asian Spa filed with the city, Crystal Asian Spa is listed as the tenant for the building. Crystal Asian Spa is a massage business at 1351 W. Lane Ave. in Columbus affiliated with the company Crystal Asian Spa LLC.
Regarding the Columbus location, Chandler said he had "no clue about that location."
Westerville spokeswoman Christa Dickey confirmed the owner of the business is Blacklick resident Yan Chang, whose name appears on the permits.
Chandler said he could not share any details of what evidence prompted the initial search warrant or what reports from citizens prompted police to investigate it.
"This search warrant was basically done to try to help us further what we've got going on," he said.
Chandler said two women whom police "believe were employees" were "detained" for questioning. He said no charges had been filed "as of right now," and would not say if he expects them to be.
According a city release, the search was conducted in partnership with the Ohio Attorney General's Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation Crime Scene Unit, Franklin County Public Health, Westerville Code Enforcement, the Salvation Army and Asian American Services.
Chandler said the Salvation Army's presence was due to the potential for a human-trafficking situation.
"The Salvation Army helps deal with people who are victims of human trafficking, if that ends up being the case," he said. "You can't call them that (at this point), but we wanted to make sure the workers here were treated with dignity and respect, so we made sure we had the social services here that were necessary to take care of them."
Later in the day, a press release issued by the Salvation Army of Central Ohio said "human-trafficking survivors involved will be offered immediate care and resources."
Michelle Hannan, the agency's anti-human trafficking director, was quoted in the release saying, "We are here to help provide care for all of the survivors."
When reached for clarification, a Salvation Army spokeswoman said the organization would not be making any further comment.
Dickey said she could not confirm whether human trafficking is a factor in the investigation or whether police had discovered victims.
According to Dickey, officers executed a second search warrant in Blacklick on the night of Feb. 2 at Chang's residence in the 1200 block of Streamview Drive. She said the warrant came as a result of "enough probable cause" gained from the business raid earlier that day.
Dickey said she could not elaborate on whether anyone had been arrested.
Attempts to reach Chang have been unsuccessful, as no number was provided on the city permits. Although a telephone number is listed on the door of Orchid Asian Spa, calls go unanswered, eventually ending with a statement that the voicemail has not been set up.
Crystal Asian Massage is closed due to "property maintenance violations," according to a city release.
Westerville City Council recently adopted an ordinance that requires all massage parlors and similar businesses to secure a license in order to operate within city limits.
Council on Feb. 6 enacted a 90-day moratorium on new massage businesses.
According to a city document, 17 of 22 massage-oriented businesses in Westerville are licensed with the Ohio Medical Board.
That ordinance is not retroactive, however, and would only apply to new businesses.
Despite that, Dickey said it's possible that businesses involved in the search could have their operating licenses revoked if the city found a "mistake" on their original application or "if there's some type of issue that would misrepresent their original application."
Dickey said more information will come as the investigation continues, but said police are being careful with information during an open case.
"This is an ongoing investigation," she said, "so there are not a lot of details available."