3 Nashville businesses raided in prostitution, money laundering - WSMV News 4

3 Nashville businesses raided in prostitution, money laundering investigation

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Police raided Shine Nails in Donelson. (WSMV) Police raided Shine Nails in Donelson. (WSMV)
Loi Lam (Source: Metro Nashville PD) Loi Lam (Source: Metro Nashville PD)
Ying Jiang (Source: Metro Nashville PD) Ying Jiang (Source: Metro Nashville PD)
Ying Zhang (Source: Metro Nashville PD) Ying Zhang (Source: Metro Nashville PD)
Jie Allen (Source: Metro Nashville PD) Jie Allen (Source: Metro Nashville PD)

Metro police have raided three businesses that they believe are involved in prostitution and human trafficking.

Police claim the three businesses have been serving as fronts for prostitution for several months.

Officers searched Shine Nails on Elm Hill Pike on Thursday morning. They said when they walked into the store, they caught a man undressed in a back room with a female employee. He was given a misdemeanor citation.

Investigators said they believe the owners were holding female employees for sex with clients and also had them doubling as nail technicians.

"This seems to have been a daily type operation occurring day in and day out," said Metro Police Captain Mike Alexander. "Obviously our main concern is promoting prostitution, patronizing prostitution within the walls of these businesses."

The investigation began in April after police received several complaints from other business owners and some people who lived nearby. Police conducted undercover operations and said they recorded prostitution activities on three separate occasions at the businesses. Investigators say men would come in and stay for more than an hour. Customers tell News 4 there was a back door where men would enter the salon, which seemed suspicious.

"They would come in an ask for a massage and once they get back on the room deals were made," said Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Tammy Meade. "People tend to know what businesses they can go to for this kind of activity and which businesses they can't."

Candy Carter, founder of anti-trafficking group Call 4 Grace said she sees it all of the time.

"A lot of them want a way out. They just don't know there is a way out," Carter said.

Police say 57-year-old Loi Lam, 46-year-old Jie Allen, 27-year-old Ying Jiang, and 33-year-old Ying Zhang are believed to be the operators of the businesses.

Police say Lam purchased a home in Seven Points Pass in Hermitage. listed under Allen's name, and housed some of the women there. Officers searched Lam's black Honda Odyssey van, the vehicle they say he used to transport women from the home to the businesses.

A nearby business owner told News 4 that it's all been a mess and he had complained to police. Ann Doty, the officer manager of the Cason Dental Center a few doors down, was shocked by the news.

"Oh my gosh," Doty said. "It's honestly kind of hard to believe because he is such a nice person. I mean we don't talk that much but we do see him a lot," she added.

Doty said she and her colleagues have known Lam as the nail salon owner a few door down for the last nearly 15 years.

"We see him walk up and down the sidewalk," Doty said. "We are all out here on a daily basis. We all take our lunch breaks around the same time and everything. Very friendly, very nice, just wouldn't have thought in a million years."

All four suspects were reportedly seen driving young Asian women in "provocative clothing" from two homes to the businesses. On scene, police told News 4 there were 15 employees in all, who may be connected to the ring. Eight were working Thursday. Two women in the Shine Nails location had California driver's licenses, while one woman had a passport from China. Police say it indicated she arrived in 2015. Officers said one woman at Shine Nails had no forms of identification. Later Thursday, police said all of the women are from China.

Carter said there are signs the public can watch out for. If the businesses' social media page has photos that seem out of place or inappropriate, report it. She also said you should also pay attention to turnover.

"When they start to travel a lot, when they move around a lot, if you go to a specific place and your girl is only there for a month and then they are gone for two months and they are back again, those are red flags," Carter said.

Carter said both customers and landlords should be reporting odd behavior.

"How can you turn a blind eye to that knowing there is a remote possibility there is an innocent person in there being sold?" she said.

Detectives also said they watched 10 men enter Shine Nails on July 3 between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. and stay for around an hour.

"It seems like a day-to-day life at this point, we believe, of being told when to get up, where to go, when to leave, when to come back and obviously once they're at these businesses engaging in illegal activity," Alexander said.  "It's a very sad scenario for us. It seems like significant number of these female employees were living either at a residence of the owner or even living at some of these massage parlors from what we can tell."

While searching the Hermitage home, police seized more than $61,000 in cash, records, and a new leather sectional with the tags attached. The police department and the District Attorney’s Office are placing a lien on the property.

Lam, Allen, Jiang and Zhang are charged with promoting prostitution. The eight women who were working in the businesses received eight citations for prostitution.

Metro police say they are expecting additional charges to be filed as the investigation continues. Meade told reporters human trafficking is a huge problem in Davidson County and that there are multiple active investigations into prostitution and trafficking.

Police have reached out to advocacy groups that assist sex trafficking victims to provide assistance to the eight women.

Below is the full list of businesses involved in the raids:

  • Shine Nails - 2828 Elm Hill Pike, Suite 107
  • Blue Sapphire - 211 Donelson Pike
  • Healing Arts Massage - 4820 Old Hickory Boulevard, Suite B

Check back with WSMV.com and News 4 for updates on this breaking news story.

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