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Human Smuggling/Trafficking
03/01/2013

Massage parlor owner sentenced on federal charges

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The owner of an Annandale massage parlor used as a front for prostitution was sentenced to 30 months in prison Friday, followed by two years of supervised release.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which participates in the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force; the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI); and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). They were assisted in the investigation by the Fairfax County Police Department.

Susan Lee Gross, aka Ju Me Lee Gross, 48, of Trinidad, Colo., pleaded guilty in October to transporting women to work as prostitutes at her massage parlor and laundering the proceeds from that illegal activity. Gross also agreed to forfeit $248,409 in illicit proceeds.

"Ms. Gross became rich by exploiting Korean women and then hiding her illicit gains from the government," said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. "Houses of prostitution like Peach Therapy area blight on the community. This case is a result of an ongoing investigation into the sale of sexual services at northern Virginia massage parlors as part of my office's crackdown on sex trafficking in the region."

"Ms. Gross, through her business, Peach Therapy, provided sexual services under the guise of operating a massage parlor," said John P. Torres, special agent in charge of HSI Washington, D.C. "HSI will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate those who seek to profit by providing services through illegal means."

"Individuals such as Ms. Gross, who use structuring and money laundering to conceal the true source of their money run the risk of federal prosecution and imprisonment," said Thomas J. Kelly, special agent in charge of the IRS-CI Washington, D.C. Field Office. "IRS Criminal Investigation is committed to unraveling money laundering schemes and assisting our law enforcement partners to ensure that the type of criminal conduct engaged in by Ms. Gross is not ignored. Today's sentence is a reminder to criminals that money laundering schemes will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted."

According to court documents, Gross owned and operated Peach Therapy, which was advertised as a massage parlor but was merely a front for prostitution. Customers obtained sexual services from Gross and the women she employed at Peach Therapy. Prices for various sex acts varied, but some women earned $800 per day in cash.

Gross advertised the various sex acts performed at Peach Therapy on erotic websites, and she recruited women to travel from such places as Georgia, North Carolina, New York and New Jersey to ensure the business was fully staffed and operational. All of the women Gross recruited were originally from Korea, some of them were unlawfully present in the United States, and most were uneducated and lacked language and employment skills. Gross used security cameras at Peach Therapy and trained the women she employed to yell if they saw the police approaching the business. Gross laundered the profits generated by Peach Therapy to hide the source and nature of the wealth she amassed through her illicit activities.

On Feb. 14, Gross's co-conspirator, Jin Seob Oh, was sentenced to 24 months of imprisonment for his role in the offenses. Oh drove many of the women to and from Peach Therapy and assisted in moving the prostitution proceeds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Frank prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.

Founded in 2004, the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Task Force is a collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies - along with nongovernmental organization - dedicated to combating human trafficking and related crimes.