The last of seven Chinese women who worked in three central Ohio massage parlors — testifying Friday in the case against three individuals charged with human trafficking — said she chose to return here after taking a job in New York City.
The testimony came in the fourth day of a Delaware County Common Pleas Court trial for three Mandarin Chinese-speaking people — 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. One was in Powell.
Authorities have alleged that the women were forced to live at the massage parlors and were not permitted to leave. However, the women testifying Friday said that she left the massage parlor to take a job as a nanny in New York City but didn’t like it and returned to the parlor.
Also testifying in court Friday was a representative from Backpage.com, a site which hosted an ad for the parlors.
A customer of the parlor — who told the jury he receive sexual services during his massage — said he found out about the massage parlor on Backpage.com. Prosecutors said during opening statements that Backpage is similar to Craigslist and offers a number of ads for sexual services. The customer told the jury the massage parlor was advertised under the “therapeutic massage section.”
Defense attorney Scott Sabol also showed the jury a photo of the parlor workers and the defendants taken at Thanksgiving 2014, several weeks before authorities raided the parlors. In the photo, the women appear to be happy and one is using her fingers to give a peace sign.
Sabol, along with defense attorneys Scott Culbert and Christopher Soon, said all the women came to Ohio legally. Sabol said Estella Xu became a U.S. citizen in 2006.
During the trial, interpreters have been needed to translate testimony for the three defendants, who do not speak English, and the seven women. Visiting Judge Joseph Timothy Campbell had to stop proceedings frequently to remind attorneys or witnesses to slow down for the interpreters.
The trial resumes Monday morning and is expected to continue into next week.
The jury is comprised of seven women and five men.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.