Massage parlor a front for vice, Hickman says

March 05, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS — An article in yesterday's Carroll County edition misidentified the attorney representing William Tallo and Sunn Express. Paul E. Draper, an attorney who practices in Columbia in the field of estate and trusts, has never represented either Sunn Express or William Tallo.

* The Sun regrets the error.

ANNAPOLIS -- Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman alleged yesterday that the county's only Oriental massage spa is a front for prostitution tied to an Asian organized crime ring.

"We're one of the victims of this chain of massage parlors, which are tied to Asian organized crime and are fronts for prostitution," Mr. Hickman told the House Economic Matters Committee. "We now have one in Carroll County."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The prosecutor made the remark during a hearing on a bill that would allow Carroll's county commissioners to regulate and eventually outlaw massage parlors.

Mr. Hickman declined to name a specific establishment and did not say what prompted his comment.

But the manager of Sunn Express Oriental Spa, the county's only Oriental massage center, called Mr. Hickman's assertion "totally false."

"This is total nonsense, what he's talking about," said Bill Taylor, manager of the Sunn Express facility in a Finksburg strip mall at Suffolk Road and Route 140. "What he's talking about may be right in New York or Chicago, but not in Carroll County. This is hillbilly town."

Mr. Taylor denied that Sunn Express had any ties to organized crime or to prostitution. "This is an American-owned business," he said.

Sunn Express opened last year and has generated complaints from parents and homeowners who live nearby.

Mr. Hickman said yesterday that the opening of the facility was the impetus behind the proposed massage parlor regulation bill. The bill, if enacted by the General Assembly, would take effect Oct. 1 and would allow the commissioners to regulate massage establishments.

Paul Draper, an attorney for Sunn Express owner William Tallo, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mr. Taylor said yesterday that Mr. Tallo was in Europe.

Mr. Hickman said yesterday that the bill would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to close down prostitution rings disguised as massage centers.

"This gets this thing at the root," he said after the 20-minute committee hearing. "Our law enforcement people won't have to go in and commit illicit acts in order to detect crimes."

He said similar laws already are on the books in Ocean City, and in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. Howard County, VTC which has six Oriental massage spas, and Baltimore County both have massage parlor bills pending before their county councils. A Baltimore County vice detective also testified yesterday in support of the bill, which would affect only Carroll County.

"There is prostitution occurring in these types of establishments in our county," said Detective J. Douglas Dunlap. "They advertise in papers and mislead landlords as to their business. You pay $60, get a full-body shampoo. Then they massage you, masturbate you and then solicit you for prostitution."

Detective Dunlap said bills such as the one considered yesterday would "shut down other attempts to open" massage parlors.

The Carroll bill would not affect physical therapists and trained massage therapists, nor would it affect sports medicine clinics or chiropractic offices.

Del. Richard Matthews, D-Carroll, said yesterday that he is confident the bill will make it out of committee and to the House floor.

Last October, a customer at the Sunn Express spa was ushered to a back room with dim red lighting before he was told what could be done for a sore back and neck. A woman told the customer that he could get a "full-body shampoo" and "finger-tip" massage for $60 an hour.

Sunn Express does little advertising, except for a small insertion in the sports section of The Sun.

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