An FBI and Topeka police raid on a downtown massage parlor Tuesday was part of larger investigation into fronts for prostitution.
Sunflower Massage, 733 S. Kansas, was the center of police activity for much of the morning as FBI and TPD investigated the parlor. Altogether five people were charged in three federal grand jury indictments alleging businesses in Topeka, Lawrence and Salina generated millions from prostitution with fronts in each of the three cities, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas said.
In connection to Sunflower Massage, Lian Hua Li, 55, and Michael Mills, 61, are charged with two counts of conspiracy, two counts of interstate racketeering and four counts of money laundering. The indictment alleges Li operated Sunflower Massage in Topeka and S-Therapy in Salina, and Mills worked with her.
Mills transported female sex workers from the airport to massage parlors and assisted Li in laundering cash proceeds of prostitution, Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said in a news release. The indictment alleges some of the money was laundered through Kansas casinos.
Employees from nearby downtown Topeka businesses gathered outside and near windows to watch the activity. Some said they had been suspicious of the massage parlor for several years and spoke to FBI and police investigators.
Men often arrived at the business at odd hours, and women were seen arriving with suitcases in either taxis or vehicles with California plates.
Vince Fry, president and CEO of Downtown Topeka Inc., watched some of the police activity from across the street.
"We're a neighborhood down here, and we're all part of that effort to keep our neighborhood safer and secure," he said. "A lot of people have their eyes open and spotted something that looked suspicious."
Sunflower Massage is above 3 Flowers Metaphysical Treasures, a separate business at the same address. The parlor was previously called Jasmine Asian Massage.
Several FBI agents, some in plain clothes and others in tactical uniforms, moved in and out of Sunflower Massage along with TPD officers, but wouldn't comment on the investigation.
FBI agents escorted three women out of the upstairs business and into unmarked cars around 10:45 a.m., but no one was in handcuffs. At another point, an investigator walked into the building with an empty box and later officers were seen carrying out several boxes.
In another indictment, Weiling Nielsen, 53, and Erik Nielsen, operators of Jasmine Massage in Topeka, Naima Asian Massage in Lawrence and Serenity Health Spa in Lawrence, are charged with two counts of conspiracy, two counts of bank fraud, five counts of money laundering, and one count of racketeering. The indictment alleges they bought and sold California real estate worth millions of dollars while falsely representing themselves to lenders as restaurant managers in Lawrence.
Ma Li Vanskike, 67, operator of ABC Massage, formerly Naima Therapy in Lawrence, is charged in a third indictment with one count of interstate racketeering and five counts of money laundering. Prosecutors believe she laundered more than $1 million in revenues over a period of five years at Harrah's Casino in North Kansas City, Mo.