Woman charged with prostitution at Lake Elmo massage business

Yuanfen Liu
Yuanfen Liu

Business objects to city's request to revoke license

A massage therapist arrested on suspicion of prostitution has been charged with one count of engaging in prostitution in a public place.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department took Yuanfen Liu, 51, of Stillwater into custody Thursday, Sept. 17, following an undercover investigation.

The department carried out the investigation after receiving a tip from a Lake Elmo resident who was concerned about illegal activity taking place at Nirvana Massage and Spa, located at 11240 Stillwater Blvd. N.

According to the criminal complaint, a detective started investigating the matter with an online search of the company. Shortly into the search he located an online review suggesting prostitution was taking place at the spa. He also found a posting of Nirvana Massage and Spa on a website with escort listings, which were involved in prostitution.

A "notice to the public" posted on Nirvana's website states:  "Nirvana Massage & Spa LLC is a service that provides service to the public, all ages, ethnicities and persuasion. However, any illicit, inappropriate or illegal activity, sexual or otherwise is not permitted. ... Any physical contact is strictly of a therapeutic nature. If you are looking for something else, we might not be right for you."

The detective made an appointment for a massage over the phone for noon Thursday, Sept. 17. The woman who scheduled the appointment reportedly did not ask for a name or any other information.

When the detective arrived for his massage appointment that day, he was greeted by Liu who asked, "You called about the 12 o'clock?"

After receiving his confirmation, she led the undercover detective into a private room and told him an hour massage would be $70.

She started massaging his backside, and after a while started concentrating her efforts on the detective's buttocks and inner thigh area, the complaint states.

Liu left the room briefly to answer the phone, returned a few minutes later, and asked the detective to turn over, so he was lying on his back. She removed a towel covering his groin area and began massaging his inner thighs and hips. The detective asked her if $50 would be enough for the massage. She responded that the amount would cover the massage and then began to grab his genitals.

It was at that point the detective signaled other officers waiting nearby to make the arrest.

A secretary with the Washington County Court Administration said Liu was released from custody after she posted bail Sept. 18 and is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 28.

Lake Elmo city attorney Dave Snyder said a letter has been sent to the business from the city of Lake Elmo asking that Nirvana's massage license be revoked, however, the business owner has objected, stating that at this point Liu has not been convicted of any crime.

The attorney said a contested hearing would soon be scheduled on the matter.

Snyder said he did not believe Liu had ownership in the company, but was not positive.

"I suspect she is either an employee or an independent contractor," he said.

Prosecuting attorney Sarah Sicheneder could not be reached for comment by the Review's deadline.

A gross misdemeanor charge of prostitution in a public place carries a maximum penalty of up to a year imprisonment and/or a $3,000 fine.


Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com


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