MOHAVE COUNTY–A joint task force of federal and local authorities helped with the rescue of two women this month, who were reportedly being trafficked through multiple massage parlors around Lake Havasu City and Bullhead City.
A press conference Tuesday at Lake Havasu City Police Department with Homeland Investigation Services ICE agents and police officials, unveiled the details of a special investigation that began with a tip from a concerned citizen in April.
“In April of this year, Homeland Security Investigations from our Yuma office received information regarding a possible human trafficking case,” said HSI Deputy Special Agent in Charge Lon Weigand. “Based on the information we received, and through investigative techniques, it was determined that only Asian females were employed at these parlors and the females may be victims of human trafficking and potential forced labor. At that point, the joint federal investigation with the Lake Havasu City Police Department and the Bullhead City Police Department determined the fact the businesses were violating human trafficking laws and other laws.”
Weigand said the investigation focused on seven local massage parlors throughout Mohave County that were reportedly providing sexual encounters in exchange for money to undercover agents.
“Agents reported that the parlors under investigation had only one to two Asian females working there at a time,” said Weigand. “These businesses dealt in cash only and the females who were working inside these massage parlors were instructed to work and live at the businesses. Their movements were extremely restricted.”
As the investigation continued, agents learned the two female immigrant victims were living in deplorable conditions and were being moved to different locations once a week by a female boss.
The main suspects reportedly at the helm of the sex trafficking ring have been identified as Amanda Yamauchi, 46, and Dean Michael Bassett, 55.
“These women were working in excess of 12 hours a day, seven days a week in these parlors,” said Weigand. “The female boss and her husband would come by the massage parlors unannounced and collect the money that the women made. The only income these women had were the tips they received for performing the massages and sexual acts.”
The joint task force executed 10 search warrants at seven massage parlors and two homes in Mohave County. The raid lead to the arrest of three Chinese nationals, five United States citizens and the discovery of the two victims.
Weigand said agents seized $128,000 in currency and $30,000 worth of gold and jewelry.
“This is a great example of see something, do something,” said Lake Havasu City Police Chief Dan Doyle. “The tips provided by local citizens about suspicious activity happening at local massage parlors led to a full investigation and the execution of search warrants across two cities.”
Doyle continued, “I will say that the Lake Havasu City Police Department has aggressively pursued human trafficking, prostitution and those who facilitate prostitution and trafficking. We will continue to aggressively pursue the people, the johns that are paying and anybody that is involved. We have been surveilling these locations since May, so we know who is coming and who is going. We still have some follow up investigation to continue and a lot more work ahead of us.”
Bullhead City Police Chief Brian Williamson echoed Doyle’s comments and said over the years the two agencies have partnered “on issues that affect one or both communities.”
“This is a prime example of what citizens can do in their community, to not just think that the police can handle everything,” said Williamson. “If you see something, say something and than we can usually take it from there coordinate with our partners and make a big impact.”
Williamson also pointed out that sexual crimes are not victimless.
“There are victims along the way,” he said. “And in this case, there were people being forced into situations and in my experience that is the case with many, many sexual crimes.”
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline organization, in 2017, Arizona had 181 human trafficking cases reported and received 408 calls relating to the issue. In 2016, there were 150 cases reported and 450 calls received.
At the conclusion of the five month special investigation, the following massage parlors and homes were raided:
- The Body Spa—1000 Highway 95 #D, Bullhead City.
- Number 1 Foot Massage—2101 Highway 95 #1, Bullhead City.
- Asian Massage #1—1655 Rainbow Road #7, Bullhead City.
- Sun Massage—4470 Highway 95 #10 Fort Mohave.
- A Beautiful Spa—1599 Ramar Road, Bullhead City.
- A residence located at 981 Ramar Road in Bullhead City.
- Asian Spa—70 Scott Drive Unit A, Lake Havasu City.
- Body Spa—2029 West Acoma Blvd. Unit B, Lake Havasu City.
- Foot and Massage Spa—1960 Mesquite Ave. Unit B, Lake Havasu City.
- An apartment in the 2000 block of N. Smoketree Avenue in Lake Havasu City.
The joint task force took into custody the following individuals:
- Amanda Yamauchi – 46, on charges of money laundering, prostitution, sex trafficking, trafficking of persons for forced labor, unlawfully obtaining labor of services, procuring or placing persons in a house of prostitution, operating a house of prostitution, benefiting from a sex trafficking venture and receiving earnings of a prostitute
- Dennis R. Weber, 65, on charges of solicitation of prostitution.
- Fang F. Chen, 45, on charges of prostitution.
- Stephen C. Hansen, 41, on charges of pandering.
- Chunxia Fang McMillin, 52, on charges of prostitution.
- Quan Xiang Ma, 55, on charges of prostitution.
Bullhead City Police spokeswoman Emily Fromelt said charges are pending against Yuqin Shu, 56, on suspicion of money laundering, trafficking persons for forced labor, unlawfully obtaining labor, sex trafficking, procuring or placing persons in a house of prostitution, operating a house of prostitution, and prostitution.
“She was not arrested at the time she was contacted during the search warrant at #1 Foot Massage because her children were present,” said Fromelt.
Weigand said this operation is part of a trans-national organized criminal investigation.
Other agencies that assisted with the operation was Havasu Abuse Victims Education Network (H.A.V.E.N.) in Lake Havasu City and the Mohave County Attorney’s Office.
Dennis R. Weber
Fang F. Chen
Stephen C. Hansen
Dean Michael Bassett
Quan Xiang Ma
Chunxia Fang McMillin