A spa owner was arrested after an investigation found that there was suspicious activity of sex trafficking and prostitution at two of her Frederick County massage businesses, police said.
Huiping Hester, 52, of Bethesda, was charged with two counts of sex trafficking and 14 counts related to trafficking and prostitution, according to a news release from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.
Todd Wivell, a sheriff’s office spokesman, said Hester was the “ringleader” of a sex trafficking and prostitution operation in Frederick County.
Hester is being represented by an attorney with the Frederick County Public Defender’s Office, according to online court records. The Public Defender’s Office could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
According to the release, Hester is being held at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center. Court records show she is being held in lieu of $10,000 bail.
The investigation stemmed from complaints of suspicious activity at Calla Spa on Worthington Boulevard in Urbana and YiYi Spa on Thomas Johnson Drive in Frederick, Wivell said.
Tipsters told police they saw others go into the establishments at all hours of the day, even after closing, according to Wivell.
Charging documents also say tipsters told police they have seen money and condoms outside the door of Calla Spa.
Efforts to reach Hester or other spa employees Wednesday were unsuccessful.
While the sheriff’s office conducted undercover operations at the Urbana location, the Frederick Police Department conducted undercover investigations at YiYi Spa, charging documents say.
Frederick Police Department Lieutenant Jon Holler said through a text message from Chief Jason Lando that he had no additional comment. The department still has an investigation ongoing on its end, the message from Holler said.
On Oct. 28, the Frederick County Human Trafficking Response Team — which includes the sheriff’s office Narcotics Investigations Section and Frederick police’s Tactical and Criminal Investigations Section — executed search warrants on both spas, Wivell said.
In addition to arresting Hester, police also questioned employees, Wivell said. Some people were referred to victim services with the Frederick Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations, he said.
Allen Etzler, a spokesman for the Frederick Police Department, said due to the ongoing investigation, he could not reveal how many people were referred to the department’s victim services.
According to Tolson DeSa, Frederick County’s zoning administrator, his office cited Calla Spa for a nonpermitted change of use and rescinded the previously approved permit. Calla Spa is not open for business, he said.
Brittany Parks, the code enforcement manager for the city of Frederick, could not be reached for comment Wednesday to comment on whether YiYi Spa was still open for business.
Follow Clara Niel on Twitter: @clarasniel