Massage parlor license to be revoked

Published 8:05 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

An Austin massage parlor involved in a prostitution bust is on the verge of losing its license.

The Austin City Council voted unanimously Monday to begin a license revocation for Serenity Asian Massage. The massage parlor, located at 1002 W. Oakland Ave., was the site of a recent prostitution sting in which one person was arrested.

A public hearing was held before the vote with testimony from Austin Police Det. Mark Walski, who led the sting operation, and Serenity Massage owner Frank Windish.

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City Attorney David Hoversten started the hearing by reading a list of ordinance violations levied against Windish, who currently lives in Rochester. Among the violations were:

•Act of prostitution

•Misrepresentation on application

•No local manager (since license holder lives out of town)

•Failure to report prior felony conviction on application

•Unlicensed masseuse

Walski testified that he first received an email from a resident expressing concern about the business on April 18. Further research found the parlor’s webpage had ads for sites associated with sex trafficking.

Walski organized the operation, receiving aid from the Rochester Police Department and the Southeast Minnesota Violent Crimes Enforcement Team. Walski also obtained a warrant.

According to Walski, an undercover agent entered the massage parlor at 10 a.m. on April 24 after making an appointment through the Rochester Serenity Massage Parlor location. The agent, equipped with a listening device, paid $60 for an hour-long massage. The masseuse instructed him to take off all his clothes and during the massage, she removed the towel covering him.

The agent asked the masseuse to touch him. When she did, he alerted the other officers. The masseuse was arrested and charged with prostitution in a public place. She was later released to Safe Harbor in Rochester, a center designed to help victims of sex trafficking.

Walski stated that he later spoke with Windish, who said a woman named “Anna” managed the Austin parlor out of Rochester. Walski also said Windish picked up the masseuse at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and drove her to Austin. Walski said the masseuse did not speak English and resided at the massage parlor, where the massage license of an unknown person was hung on the wall.

Windish then testified before the council, stating that he had no intention of setting up a sex trafficking operation.

“I just came to Austin to make a few bucks,” he said. “I was not trying to open up a prostitution ring.”

Windish also said he did not believe the masseuse was a prostitute, pointing out she was charged for an “alleged” act of prostitution, and that he was not aware he needed a local manager. He urged the council not to go through with revoking his license.

“If it closes, I want it to be my choice,” he said.

After testimony was heard, Hoversten recommended a motion to propose prepared finding of facts to seek revocation. The council unanimously approved the motion.

—Jason Schoonover contributed to this article.