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Colorado Springs City Council candidates provide solutions for illicit spas

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- 13 Investigates first exposed a booming illegal sex industry with ties to human trafficking in Colorado Springs two years ago.

There are currently 27 massage parlors open with sexually explicit reviews on a website called RubMaps operating within Colorado Springs city limits.

After our team continued to ask questions since then, the Colorado Springs City Council has finally agreed to address the issue in a work session next month.

Ahead of the work session, we asked all of the council candidates running for office on April 6 what solutions they had to shut down the more than two dozen illicit parlors open in Colorado Springs city limits.

Our investigation has found that there is little recourse for these illicit spas after being busted for prostitution. They typically open right back up after being arrested.

That's what happened in December when accused pimp Xinan Xia opened his two illicit parlors the day he bailed out jail on charges of keeping a house of prostitution and pimping, despite the fact police believe the women working there are victims.

"Those people are in fact victims. They are often tightly controlled as to their movements and what they can and can't do," El Paso County District Attorney Michael Allen.

Here's where these spas exist by city council district:

District 1 (Northwest Colorado Springs) - 4 illicit parlors

District 2 (North Central Colorado Springs) - 1 illicit parlor

District 3 (Southwest Colorado Springs) - 3 illicit parlors

District 4 (Southeast Colorado Springs) - 11 illicit parlors

District 5 (Central Colorado Springs) - 8 illicit parlors

District 6 (East Colorado Springs) - none currently operating

Eleven of the candidates running for city council support creating a new ordinance to make it tougher for illicit massage parlors to operate. The city of Aurora did that back in 2018 and was able to kick out most of its illegal parlors within a year.

Glynn says he supports only using the city's current public nuisance ordinance to shut down spas but doesn't believe a new ordinance is necessary. Glynn did acknowledge that parlors have been a "known source of human trafficking" and added that he thinks more should be done than "simply passing more laws and ordinances that will likely be skirted by offenders."

Geislinger claims there's no evidence of human trafficking in the spas and said he supports enforcement of current laws instead of a new ordinance.

Candidates Michael Seeger, Jay Inman, Henry McCall, Regina English, Matt Zelenok, Garfield Johnson, and Mike O'Malley didn't provide an explanation for not responding to the survey. District 4 incumbent councilwoman Yolanda Avila, who has more illicit parlors in her district than any other area of town, told 13 Investigates over the phone she chose not to complete it because it was "distracting from the focus of her campaign."

(Scroll to the bottom of this article to see the reasons given for answers from candidates)

However, illicit spas are no doubt one of the first issues the newly elected council will work on as it's the topic scheduled to be discussed at their first work session six days after the election.

"We look to people like your station KRDO okay to bring these things to light. I think you've shut down two of the organizations already," City councilman at large Bill Murray said.

Murray isn't up for re-election but tells 13 Investigates it's finally time for action.

"I don't want it to be a one-off discussion and then just have it disappear in the ethereal. What we need to do is consolidate that information into one central location, so in fact, we can act on it," Murray said.

The new city council illicit spa work session is set for April 12.

Responses to our survey

What method of shutting down more than two dozen illicit massage parlors in Colorado Springs do you support if elected to city council? A new ordinance requiring more regulation, enforcement of existing public nuisance ordinance, or a combination of the two solutions?

Dave Donelson District 1 - New ordinance requiring more regulation of illicit massage parlors ex: Aurora ordinance

Glenn Carlson District 1 - Other: All of the above! We own a massage therapy clinic and have many employees. This is an issue we have followed and deal with all the time. We are happy to see you've kept highlighting this issue and on council, I will do whatever it takes to stop this behavior.

Jim Mason District 1 - Combination of above solutions

David Noblitt District 2 - New ordinance requiring more regulation of illicit massage parlors ex: Aurora ordinance

Randy Helms District 2 - New ordinance requiring more regulation of illicit massage parlors ex: Aurora ordinance

Dave Geislinger District 2 - Other: Enforcement of all laws related to prostitution.

Olivia Lupia District 3 - New ordinance requiring more regulation of illicit massage parlors ex: Aurora ordinance

Richard Skorman District 3 - Combination of above solutions

Art Glynn District 3 - Enforcement of Colorado Springs public nuisance ordinance

Justin Hermes District 5 - Combination of above solutions

Nancy Henjum District 5 - Combination of above solutions

Karlie Van Arnam District 5 - Combination of above solutions

Mary Elizabeth Fabian District 5 - Other: All of the above as well as pushing for state legislation and working with community resources like news agencies and the Human Trafficking Task Force of Colorado Springs to help spread awareness of these situations. I have found that many in our community are not truly aware of this situation and the impacts in of our community.

Why did you choose the above solution for shutting down illicit parlors? Please be as specific as possible.

Dave Donelson District 1 - I will be a vote to stop Illicit Massage Parlors. Since our ordinance has proven ineffective I will support enacting a more effective ordinance. We can use the "Aurora ordinance" as a model. Since it has shown itself to be effective in Aurora we can expect it to be effective in Colorado Springs also. During the period leading up to the ordinance passage I will also support strong enforcement of Colorado Springs public nuisance ordinance.

Glenn Carlson District 1 - We are in this industry and this kind of illicit behavior affects everyone. I believe those people found guilty of trafficking should NEVER be allowed to hold a massage therapy license or operate a licensed business, for that matter. Therapist licensing is done at the state level and much more cross-reporting of data is needed to stop these serial violators. In addition, we can work with private companies to highlight these companies and push them to clamp down as well, i.e. shut down their Google listing or FB pages.

Jim Mason District 1 - I think 'illicit massage parlors' in many ways act as a component of the Human Trafficking paradigm. Moreover, I think the 2nd and 3rd order effects of illicit massage parlors lead to an erosion of safety and security measures, which in turn, harms our community, by endangering unaware citizens while they are conducting their daily lives.

David Noblitt District 2 - If it has worked in a city within the state, then I would believe it would be the quickest way to provide for enforcement to stop the process without opening the city to a legal challenge. I’m shocked at the lack of action from every level of government here. If we know that illegal activity is occurring, I don’t want to wait for 1, especially 2 acts to be found out prior to initiating the CS ordinance. This is crazy that this is not being addressed appropriately and quickly. And then once we have closed the actions here, move to the state to drive this though the legislature.

Randy Helms District 2 - I support the strongest possible measures to stop these atrocious crimes.

Dave Geislinger District 2 - There is a difference between prostitution and human trafficking, and the please department advises that their evidence establishes these are places of prostitution and they are dealt with as such. I continue to support the enforcement of the laws prohibiting prostitution, but it must be even handed in enforcement against the Johns also. If they were evidence of human trafficking, my response would be different.

Olivia Lupia District 3 - The City of Aurora's approach is clearly effective, as the results in Aurora speak for themselves. For the City of Colorado Springs to only have an unenforced city ordinance that equates prostitution and pimping, ergo human trafficking, to just a nuisance requiring multiple offenses before any legal enforcement action can commence in earnest is clearly an impotent response. A new ordinance similar to the one enacted in Aurora in combination with diligent Colorado Springs Police Department enforcement and District Attorney prosecutions of both spa operators and their customers would see these business close. Equally as important as permanently shutting down these facilities and prosecuting the operators is the rescue and rehabilitation efforts for the girls working in the establishments who are the only victims in this scenario.

Richard Skorman District 3 - The pandemic has made it even more challenging to crackdown on our 34 illicit spas, as we don't want to expose our uncover officers to COVID. Hopefully, we can ramp up soon as the vaccinations are more widely rolled out. We are now using our Public Nuisance ordinance that allows the city to shut down business that have two instances of illegal pimping by threatening the building owner with seizure of their property. It is a much easier and quicker process than going the traditional felony route. I do like the ordinance Aurora passed in 2018 that requires a background check, list of employers, bank statements, a longer application process and even restricts operating hours, hours of operation and overnight stays. I do worry about the welfare of the sex workers and would want to make sure there is a good safety net in place for the women/victims when we shut them down. And we need to cooperate better with the Sheriff's Dept. and the County to ensure that when we close down these businesses in the City, that they just don't open up in the County. Yes, Aurora has done a good job of shutting these operations down, but many have just moved to Arvada and other neighboring cities. We will have a Council Work Session on Illicit Massage Parlors from PD April 12th, to get the newly elected Council members up to speed.

Art Glynn District 3 - Colorado Springs massage parlors have been a known source of human trafficking and other illicit activities for years. Our local military installations have prohibited a large number of massage parlors for as long as I have lived here (15 years), yet our police have been hamstrung with a lack of resources and local political will to eradicate this cancer to our community. I was tempted to answer this question with other, as laws and ordinances are only as good as they are followed or prosecuted when they are not. We need to do more than simply pass more laws and ordinances that will likely be skirted by offenders. It is important for folks to recognize that this is not about the sex industry, it is about human exploitation and is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg for other social cancers that threaten our community. To gain an understanding of what is it at stake, I encourage folks to go to https://traffickinginamericataskforce.org/ to learn more.

Justin Hermes District 5 - We must not tolerate this at all. If elected to city Council I would work closely with the police department and make sure all illicit parlors are shut down.

Nancy Henjum District 5 - Clearly, from KRDO’s own reporting, including comments from CSPD, the current ordinance in Colorado Springs is not enough to stop once and for all this terrible exploitation of women. Enforcement also needs to be a higher priority for local law enforcement as we give our police better tools, such as an ordinance like the one in Aurora. In many of the issues we face we can learn from other jurisdictions, and I am very encouraged by Aurora’s approach, particularly as they make it virtually impossible for an illicit parlor to open up again once closed. We will also need to coordinate with the County to ensure that we are lock step and not pushing these businesses to the County. A further step is crucial: As we close these parlors, we need to engage a coalition of partners and services to help women out of what is essentially forced prostitution. What economic situations might they be in? How can we help them find jobs, or job training that will bring them the kind of work that is fully respectful of their humanity.

Karlie Van Arnam District 5 - I would support implementing an ordinance similar to the one Aurora has adopted. I was actually shocked when I learned that the City does not require any sort of registration for a massage parlor to even verify that the employees working at the parlor are licensed massage therapists. This seems like the most basic of requirements to operate a parlor. Coming from a highly regulated industry, I am not a fan of over-regulation or excessive cost prohibitive regulations. However, it seems that for a nominal licensing fee (enough to cover the administrative costs of licensing and periodical inspections) and a basic set of regulations similar to Aurora's, we could eradicate the illicit massage parlors within the city in a similar time frame and fashion as Aurora without unduly burdening professional massage therapy businesses and spas. I would also support enforcing the public nuisance ordinances and pursuing abatement processes. I understand they can be a lengthy process, but we muse keep in mind that these illegal operations are profiting of off trafficking women. They are violating the most fundamental and unassailable human rights. We owe it to these victims to pursue every avenue we have to eliminate the illicit parlors that are holding them hostage, right here in our own City. And finally, I would advocate for participation on the State level. The problem with enacting a ordinances just here in Colorado Springs is that the parlors will pick up and move to neighboring cities that do not have any oversite. Collaboration between the local municipalities and the State is a necessary step to fight against human trafficking.

Mary Elizabeth Fabian District 5 - We should not pass the buck to the county or another community in this situation but look for solutions that actually help stop this problem across the board.

Colorado Springs / Investigations / Local News

Chelsea Brentzel

Chelsea is an investigative reporter for KRDO NewsChannel 13. Learn more about Chelsea here.

Comments

11 Comments

  1. “District 4 incumbent councilwoman Yolanda Avila, who has more illicit parlors in her district than any other area of town, told 13 Investigates over the phone she chose not to complete it because it was “distracting from the focus of her campaign.””
    .
    I hope her priorities are reflected in the election results for her district. She’s clearly more concerned about her job than the good of those she supposedly represents.

    1. She’s probably still attempting to lay under the preverbal Radar after her fallout regarding Transgenders. It is intriguing though that a person that was so Pro-women in her stance on that argument is unwilling to lift a finger or make an answer regarding these females involved within the sex trafficking industry. Sometimes saying nothing is more than enough to explain your real stance.

  2. Rather than threatening to take the property, wouldn’t action show resolve? If the same tactic of taking all assets works with large narcotic and gambling organizations doesn’t it also lend credence to say it will have the same effect in the sex trafficking industry as well? Choosing to have a slow reaction based upon the county sounds like a patsy of an excuse. If the county wishes to fix this problem, will they not also follow suit? Nest excuse will be if the state wishes to fix this problem they would follow the same course of action. Waiting on another government entity to act before the smaller, independent government acts is more an excuse and less a valid argument. Stopping this industry needs to be the focus, but as they say, “How do you eat an elephant?”
    By the by, why is our Law enforcement Undercover officers not already vaccinated, were they not amongst the first of those that were to receive the vaccine? Sounds like another lame duck excuse as well.
    Action will always speak louder than words.
    Ms. Brentzel, thank you for the opportunity to hear their responses. Pity that “Candidates Michael Seeger, Jay Inman, Henry McCall, Regina English, Matt Zelenok, Garfield Johnson, and Mike O’Malley didn’t provide an explanation for not responding to the survey.”

  3. No one really cares about Asian Rub n Tugs, leave the Asians alone and let them run their spa’s. These SPA’s meet a demand and attacking them has led to violence and hatred against Asians while the marxist democrats welcom drugs and disease into America from Mexico.

    ColoFornia Springs mayor Suthers, the City Council of liars, developer puppets and BS artists need to solve our problem with CSU ripping off utility customers along the massive poverty hitting the poor and middle class.

    1. Let’s be real here and perfectly clear, smoke and mirrors, you know why they do it, but sadly most reflect reason when it comes to the ruling class, Cantor look within kind of stuff, but enough ofthat,
      Why is it okay to let children make the frontal lobe decision to transfer, whatever the heck that means, but won’t allow two adults to make a verbal or written contract

    2. Facts first.
      1. There are people that do care, I know I am one.
      2. The negative stigma that caused the animosity was not caused by the limelight drawn upon massage spas, it has been well reported on that recently (Since Co-VID) the negative rhetoric (the origin of CO-VID) our former twice impeached POTUS (45) drummed up amongst his supporters is what caused the increase in bias motivated crimes against our fellow Asian neighbors.
      3. If you want to go further than that into history, then we will have to discuss something that is very unpopular amongst your circle and that is equality of all ages, races, genders, faiths, Etc.
      4. If the Democrats are Marxist, explain this declassified federal report that details who Russia backed.
      https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/ICA-declass-16MAR21.pdf

  4. It’s okay to smoke weed, gamble, and kill your own unborn baby, but somehow this is still illegal? How about we legalize and tax it and move on to something more important.

  5. Wow, I take it nobody gives a shit that city council members have stolen 10million dollars of federal grant money that was supposed to help with homeless problem. Closing down homeless camps without a plan just sends them to a different spot. That doesn’t fix damn thing and doesn’t explain what happened with the money. Let’s worry more about blowjob than council outright theft. People here are dumb as dirt and need address real problem of dirty council members

  6. This has been a problem for a LONG time. Seems like every time this gets brought up everyone talks about action and nothing ever happens. Many years ago they did a huge undercover operation and arrested a lot of people. Some of the people arrested in the sting turned out to be police officers and even a assistant DA.

  7. straight men need somewhere to go, this whole town is just a den of homosexual deviousness, meth use, and depravity, Nobody can really meet anyone and develop a relationship due to covid, It’s acceptable for a city to have gay pride but not at the expense of the straight heterosexual population.
    Spa issues are nothing to sneeze at, but other larger cities are completely out of control with the sex trade. I just say-if they get caught doing more than just a real massage, close their building, and auction it off to a non-related business. The world is full of deep perversion and corruption. I look forward to the Second Coming to remove me from this corrupt city state country world.

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