Parlor workers testify at trafficking trial


Women working at three central Ohio massage parlors testified Thursday that they were not ordered or instructed to perform sexual favors for male clients.

The testimony came in the third day of a trial for three Chinese people — Qing Xu, 57, and her husband, Xiaoshaung Chao, 57, both of Columbus, and Qing’s sister, Estella Xu, 55, of Pomona, California — who are accused of human trafficking and promoting prostitution at massage parlors they operated.

Several women who worked as masseuses at the parlors, including one in Powell, testified in Delaware County Common Pleas Court and told the jury what it was like to work at the establishments.

When asked what their instructions were, the women said they were told to keep the men happy and not make them angry or annoyed. When questioned directly by defense attorneys, one of the women said she refused to touch men’s genitals when men would ask. A second woman said that she would only touch their private areas in order to help the men clean up after massages but said she did not pleasure the men.

A third woman who testified Thursday said that two to three men took her hand and placed it on their genitals and motioned for her to pleasure them. She added that five or six times the men would pleasure themselves when she finished the massages.

The only sexual contact described so far in the trial has been the workers touching the men with their hands.

The women testified that they would work between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. at the parlors. One testified Thursday that she traveled around the United States before settling in Ohio to work at the massage parlors. She added that she used to live in a Chinese community in Los Angeles. When asked by defense attorney Daniel Sabol if she had the same privileges here that she did there, she said yes.

The women all testified that they had access to cellphones and the Internet and could communicate with their friends. One woman told attorneys that she invited a friend from LA to come work at the massage parlor to be with her and make some money. The woman testified that she made $3,000 to $4,000 a month, sometimes more.

Prosecutors asked two of the women what would happen if they tried to quit the business and the women said their boss told them they could leave after replacements had been found.

Several customers of the massage parlors also testified Thursday.

The first customer said he went once in December 2014 and the woman giving him the massage said she would pleasure him for $80.

The second customer told the jury he did not make a deal with the masseuse for her to pleasure him. He said he went to the massage parlor five or six times and sexual contact only occurred about half the time.

Interpreters were needed to translate testimony for the three defendants, who do not speak English. While three interpreters were present the first two days of the trial, one of them was sick Thursday, further complicating translation. Visiting Judge Joseph Timothy Campbell had to stop proceedings frequently to remind attorneys or witnesses to slow down for the interpreters.

Defense attorneys Scott Culbert and Christopher Soon objected to the use of the interpreters because they were not translating exactly and were “editorializing” and unfamiliar with terms crucial to the case.

The women working at the parlors also testified that they were not told to pleasure men by Estella Xu. One of the women could not even identify Estella Xu by sight or by name. One of the women testified that she could not tell who the boss was.

The trial resumes Friday morning and is expected to continue into next week.

The jury is comprised of seven women and five men.

By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG

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