WARREN - Within moments of getting a court order from a judge on Friday, City Law Director Greg Hicks began serving legal papers and padlocking the eight massage parlors that were targeted last week in a prostitution raid by state agents.
Hicks was designing the official note to be posted on the buildings while city prosecutor Traci Timko-Rose waited for a signature from Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay, who issued a temporary restraining order following a brief exparte hearing in chambers.
The law director said he was treating the abatement action like an eviction. ''They're going to be closed and we want everybody out of the buildings wherever possible,'' he said. ''We gave the judge uncontroverted evidence of prostitution. That makes these places a nuisance per se.''
Mayor Doug Franklin and Hicks stood by while employees inside Hot Sun Spa, 2819 W. Market St., were served first. Employees of the city Operations Department posted the sign and strung yellow police tape over the entrance way.
Four people were found living inside the building, including one woman who yelled at photographers, trying to discourage them from taking photos. No one was arrested.
Besides Hicks, Special Agent Al Bansky of Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation attended the hearing earlier in front of McKay to vouch for evidence that agents collected May 30 in their sweep of the businesses.
The restraining order is in effect until a hearing before McKay at 9 a.m. June 18 on a preliminary or permanent injunction.
At that hearing, the city will likely be required to produce testimony from Bansky as well as from still unidentified customers at the spas who furnished agents with affidavits explaining acts of prostitution they personally encountered while frequenting the spas. Agents also had affidavits from female employees at a couple spas.
It's expected the customers from all over northeast Ohio would be offered immunity from prosecution, which is still expected from the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office.
1. James B. Foster, DBA Gemini Health Spa, 1043 N. Turner Road, Youngstown.
2. Barbara Y. Kim, DBA Tokyo Spa, 2970 Parkman Road N.W., Warren; Myeong Kang, 2970 Parkman Road N.W., Warren; Kenneth A. Morelli, 3505 Kibler Toot Road, Warren.
3. William B. Ketchum, DBA Fuji Spa, 606 Avalon Creek, Vienna; Andrea Thompson, 1446 Parkman Road N.W., Warren; Elie B. Cherfan, 3530 Wadsworth Road, Barberton.
4. Euiwhan Oh, DBA Moon Night Spa, 3875 Youngstown Warren Road, Warren; Chun C. Kang, 3877 Youngstown Warren Road, Warren; Moon Night Spa Corp., 3875 Youngstown Warren Road, Warren; West End Investment Co., 105 Javit Court, Youngstown.
5. Seung Talk Oh, DBA Hong Kong Spa, 925 Youngstown Warren Road, Warren; Mae Hwa Roberts, 2019 West Market St., Warren; Nahnju C. Emison Collette, DBA Hong Kong Spa, 1942 E. Midlothian Blvd., Youngstown; Jong Yong Chia, DBA Hong Kong Spa, 1942 E. Midlothian Blvd., Youngstown.
6. Myong Sun Chin, DBA Ocean Spa, 2000 North Road, Warren; 8098 Professional Building Ltd., 8098 E. Market St., Warren.
7. Song A. Westphal, DBA Hot Sun Health Spa Inc., 2819 W. Market St., Warren; Hot Sun Health Spa Inc., 2866 W. Market St., Warren; Richard Thompson, DBA Hot Sun Spa, 10 Smith Court, Girard; Orchis LLC, 2819 W. Marlet St., Warren.
8. William P. Nguyen, DBA Fantacy Spa, 1523 Youngstown Road S.E., Warren.
Attorney Gary Rich, who along with attorney Dan Keating represents the spas, said the written affidavits from male customers cannot serve as proper evidence since it's considered hearsay. They said the customers would have to take the witness stand so they could be cross-examined properly.
''Our clients are licensed under a city ordinance,'' Rich said. ''The city should have exhausted all administrative remedies first.''
''No current owners of these spas has knowledge of any illegal prostitution,'' Rich said.
Rich and Keating did not oppose the eight individual cases on each spa being consolidated with McKay.
In each case, the city named owner or owners of the property where the spas are located as well as those operating the business.
It's not clear how the abatement action effects a June 27 hearing before Warren's Board of Health when Hicks said the city will push for permanent revocation of licenses the city issued. The licenses have been suspended temporarily and a woman at one spa was cited into Warren Municipal Court for continuing to remain open.