The Fridley City Council allowed a massage therapy license application to be withdrawn after an investigation into the business uncovered fraud.
In May 2018, Fridley City Code Chapter 125 entitled “saunas and massage parlors” exempted massage therapy businesses from licensing requirements, but required massage therapists to register with the city for no charge.
That same month, a police investigation found alleged criminal activity in two local business locations in the city, which were closed and the registration of the massage therapist in those locations were suspended.
As a result, the city council adopted a new ordinance, which repealed the previous ordinance and created massage therapy and business and massage therapist licensing.
“Letters were mailed to all massage therapists of new regulations with an Oct. 1 deadline to file applications for the massage therapy business and massage therapists licenses,” said City Clerk Deb Skogen. “All but one business met the deadline requirements and were licensed.”
On Oct. 23, the city received applications for a massage therapy business licenses for Tunia Massage and massage therapist licenses for Julia Wang and Yafang Zhang.
“The applications were then to the police department for a background investigation,” said Skogen.
The background check of the business license and Julia Wang found falsification of information on license application in violation of city code.
“Specifically the failure to disclose Julia Wang’s ownership and/or operation in five massage therapy business in the cities of Blaine, Minneapolis, Columbia Heights, Rochester and Spring Lake Park,” said Skogen. “Failure to disclose the revocation of a massage therapy businesses license in Rochester and the denial of a massage therapy business license in Minneapolis.”
Multiple massage therapy business owned by Wang have been investigated for suspicion activating including residential habitation within a commercial property and employing unlicensed therapist.
Additionally, one massage therapist was cited for prostitution while working in a business owned by Wang and another massage therapist was cited for position on another jurisdiction.
“Julia Wang has acknowledged illicit sexual activity has occurred in her massage therapy businesses,” said Skogen.
Skogen also said the massage therapy businesses have presented an ongoing issue for many jurisdictions.
“Police departments in at least two different jurisdictions have raised concerns of human trafficking or illicit commercial sex in businesses owned, operated or related to Wang,” she said. “Based on this information, granting a massage therapy business license would be a menace to the safety, health, morals or welfare of the public.”
On Feb. 14, letters providing information of the public hearing and the denial of the licenses was mailed to Wang and Zhang. Wang and Zhang’s legal representative responded by requesting that their applications be withdrawn.
“Due to the nature of this license and the nature of the nondisclosure and fraud, staff felt the public hearing should be held to allow the city council to determine the outcome,” said Skogen.
City Attorney Jay Karlovich recommended the council also revise the current ordinance to prevent Wang and Zhang from submitting another application.
“There is nothing that would stop them from making an application tomorrow for a new license,” said Karlovich.
Karlovich also recommend that the council accept the application withdrawal to avoid potential litigation.