Spa busted for soliciting sex

January 22, 2009 7:22:38 PM PST
A business that claims to be a fitness center is once again under investigation for soliciting sex. It is right across the street from an elementary school and parents are demanding action.

The Vicente Fitness and Health Care Center is half a block from Dianne Feinstein Elementary School. The spa got its permit from the city in August of last year.

School parents were suspicious right away. Some decided to take a look for themselves.

"I personally went in and tried to join but they said there is no fitness center there," said school parent Matt Mitguard.

Wei Liu also went inside. She asked if the fitness center had a gym for exercise classes.

"The woman who worked there didn't understand what gym was," said Liu.

The parents contacted police. In October of last year, just two months after the spa opened, undercover officers from the Vice Unit sent decoys inside.

"One of our undercover officers was solicited for an act of prostitution," said Lt. Mary Patrie from the SFPD Vice Crimes Unit.

The spa closed down, a sign said it was being remodeled. Two months later in December, it was back in business.

Parents again complained to police who launched another decoy operation.

An employee was cited, but not arrested, for soliciting the undercover officer. She's charged with a misdemeanor.

"I hope they get shut down permanently. It's not good for the school or good for the neighborhood," said Liu.

Taraval Station Police Captain Paul Chignel agrees.

"We have an epidemic out here in the Sunset District of homes that are rented for the purpose of prostitution," said Capt. Chignel.

Police tell ABC7, only the Health Department can close it, since it's the agency that issues massage parlor permits. But a health Department official told us by phone, they only look for health code violations, not prostitution.

In the meantime, the phones were ringing at the spa when we left. It was still open for business.

Police and the Health Department say what's needed is stronger legislation to crack down on the brothels that front as massage parlors.