Channel 6 News Fact Finders first exposed the FBI investigation into an Omaha spa. A grand jury has indicted four people allegedly involved in a prostitution operation. A former employee says the customers included prominent individuals.
Raids at 93rd and Maple and two others last fall led to the indictments. Sources say the FBI seized thousands of pages of records from these spas and those include client lists. As the federal case moves along, will that mean those names will become public?
A neighbor told Fact Finders she saw men in cars with out-of-state plates waiting to be let in. “South Dakota, Kansas, Illinois, they had to know ‘cause they had to be buzzed in,” said Susie.
Sixty-three-year-old William (Randy) Knox of Omaha allegedly operated and sublet the spa at 93rd and Maple. He faces eight counts, including money laundering and promoting prostitution across state lines.
Attorney Jim Schaefer represents Knox. “They took two cars and I know they seized a couple of bank accounts and they'd have to prove the money and vehicles were purchased with funds obtained illegally.”
Knox, who was busted 16 years ago for promoting prostitution, allegedly leased the spa to 41-year-old Tammy Schuck, who moved out and opened two other spas, also allegedly fronts for prostitution. Schuck and her 22-year-old daughter Tabatha Ashburn face charges for managing the spas. Thirty-one-year-old Christopher Tierney is accused of setting up a Web site and creating a computerized record system for the spas.
All four are due in federal court May 9th. Investigators allege the conspiracy goes back to 1998.
"Every girl was different," said one spa worker who has talked with investigators and didn't want her identity revealed. "Some were paid as much as $400. The minimum was $40. Overall, I was paid very well. At 18 years old I was making $48,000 in five months."
The indictment says everyone paid a cover charge to the spa, rang a buzzer for entry and paid a tip to the attendants who were all men. Investigators say in return, the men received a sex act. The paperwork also states the businesses only dealt with cash payments.
"I did it because it was the right thing to do," said the worker on her role of talking to the FBI. "If I didn't, more young women would go into my situation."
Some of the former employees say prominent people did use the services. Will those names ever see the light of day? "There are a lot of people on that list that you'd be surprised that came there, but they always used fake names, lied, but you knew,” said the former spa worker.
Officials with the U.S. Attorneys Office say the lists of clients are physical evidence and haven't been introduced as evidence yet and would likely become public record if they were to be introduced. But even if they are, will there be any way to verify the names if most of them were fake?
Workers said they sometimes recognized the prominent individuals in public places, like at the courthouse. "He looked at me and I looked at him." Workers said there was one licensed therapist who worked there, but she operated in a separate room next door.
How much of the business was legitimate? The worker was asked if 10 customers came in, how many were legitimate customers? “Zero," said the former employee, who added that if 40 people came in, one would want a legitimate massage.
Sources also say the six-month long grand jury probe looked into whether any underage children were involved in prostitution. “There's no underage girls or boys that are part of this indictment,” said Schaefer.
The body washes did attract a large adult clientele. The indictment alleges the 93rd and Maple spa alone had an ongoing client base of over 1,000 individuals.
Investigators said the spas operated under several names in three parts of town: Avant Gentleman's Spa, Advantage Spa and Body Works, Ninety-Third Street Spa, NTS Spa, Advantage Day Spa, OT Spa and It Works Spa.
Omaha police, the FBI and IRS were involved in the investigation.
Clients need to know where they're going to find the gentleman's spa at 93rd and Maple. No signs above the door to indicate that inside women provide table showers or lotions rubs. Even during operating hours, clients who came here had to ring a buzzer to be let in.
A neighbor who didn’t want to be identified said the employees didn’t dress like massage therapists. “They're in jeans, high heels and tops. No, they're not like a normal massage parlor in scrubs. In the summer it’s tight shorts and tank tops.” She only saw women employees.
In October, the FBI raided three body wash spas. Several witnesses said it appeared the agents were looking for evidence that underage girls were performing sex acts. The FBI also seized records and computers that might reveal the names of clients.
One former manager told Fact Finders prominent Omaha men used the spa services, which are legal as long as no sex act is included. Two of the spas closed for good while a third reopened.
A manager at the reopened spa said there is no prostitution allowed and all employees must clear a background check.
The neighbor, worried about retaliation, wonders why the reopened spa seems so low key. “It’s secretive, like sitting in your car waiting for a guy to come and then going in and no signs on the doors and the buzzer to let them in.”
A federal grand jury has been in session since mid-November. Sources say several former employees of the three body wash spas have been called to testify.
While finding any official statement from federal prosecutors is hard, finding information about these kind of operations is only a few clicks away.
With a quick Google search, you can find reviews about spas that offer table showers and lotion rubs for men. An anonymous neighbor has seen the clientele, "Construction guys to guys in in suits, 30 to 70, all age groups, all economic groups. It's amazing."
She says there was never a sign outside the business, leaving her to wonder how they found it. We found a series of underground websites that have been directing traffic here from all over the Midwest.
Through Facebook, we made contact with a few of the girls who worked there. Some have provided testimony to the federal grand jury and legally can't say anything. One of them was willing to provide information at a price. Channel Six declined.
A former manager of two body wash spas told Fact Finders that, in her opinion, the independent contractors didn't need a state license because they weren't providing deep muscle massages. However, after a call from Fact Finders, the professional board that oversees massage therapy will be discussing table showers.