Prosecutor: Massage parlor prostitution ring operated in four communities

Zhen Lai, Joseph Girouard, and Wenjie Dong face charges in the alleged prostitution ring.
Zhen Lai, Joseph Girouard, and Wenjie Dong face charges in the alleged prostitution ring.

A 55-year-old Revere man was ordered held in lieu of bail today after his arraignment in Chelsea District Court on charges that he owned massage parlors in Burlington, Needham, Revere, and Wellesley that were fronts for prostitution.

Joseph A. Girouard was unable to post the $5,000 cash bail, his attorney, Richard Barrett, said.

Wenjie Dong, 49, of Malden, who allegedly managed the Revere location, was released after posting $1,000 cash bail. Each of them faces one count of keeping a house of prostitution and two counts of sex trafficking.

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A third person allegedly involved in the operation, Girouard’s business partner, Zhen Lai, 37, of Quincy, was arraigned in Dedham District Court and ordered held on $2,000 cash bail. A judge slated a probable cause hearing for Nov. 19.

Assistant Attorney General Deb Bercovitch said at the Chelsea court hearing that after Dong’s arrest she cooperated with police and provided documentation of her connection and financial interest in the business, according to court documents.

In court before Judge Benjamin Barns, Bercovitch gave new details about the alleged prostitution operation, alleging that Girouard and his business partner, Lai, would transport women between the four massage businesses.

Some had been brought from New York and would stay a short time working at the spa, and then leave so new women could come in, Bercovitch said.

Dong allegedly managed the Revere Bodywork location, taking appointments, and posting numerous advertisements on craigslist.org. Some of the advertisements were still posted Friday.

In Dedham, at Lai’s araignment, Assistant Attorney General Patrick Hanley said Lai was “essentially the madam of the brothel in Wellesley.”

He said that the businesses advertised massages in the Boston Phoenix and on Craigslist.org when, “in reality, much of what their business was was illegal sex acts.”

The Wellesley parlor is in a building that looks like a residence right off Route 9. No signs on the front identify the place, but if you walk around back, there’s a blue door with a sign reading, “Sun Studios.”

Wellesley Police Chief Terrence Cunningham said his department was tipped off in March that the parlor was allegedly a front for prostitution and that his officers quickly realized the spa’s owners were engaged in more extensive scheme.

“It became apparent that it may be more of a human trafficking case,’’ Cunningham said. He alleged that Lai and Girouard were “transporting Asian females to work at the spas” who engaged in “sexual conduct for a fee.”

According to Coakley’s office, the workers at the parlor masked the payments for sex by describing the money as tips. Prosecutors allege that Lai and Girouard “advertised the two spas on websites known to advertise prostitution.’’