The four Trumbull County health spas left alone while state agents raided eight others in Warren last month are being carefully watched, officials said.
Braceville officials have not asked for the state attorney general's help in investigating Four Seasons spa in the township - a necessary step if a municipality wants state law enforcement aid, but one trustee says he believes the state should be more involved in regulating spas, and fears if they are forced out of cities like Warren, they may move to nearby townships.
Meanwhile officials say they are watching the other three spas - including two more in Warren and one in Niles - for evidence of any wrongdoing that could be used to shut them down.
Warren Law Director Greg Hicks said they're still working on cases against the Tiger Spa, which was shut down for remodeling during the raids, and the Sunny Spa, on West and East Market Street, respectively. Hicks said he could not give details of any pending investigation, but investigators were unable so far to gather enough evidence against those two spas to get a judge's permission to raid them.
"I can tell you they are under a watchful eye," Hicks said. "If we can put together enough evidence then they will suffer the same fate."
Warren police Chief Tim Bowers said he isn't worried that raids at the eight other spas would affect the investigation into the remaining spas.
"Think about it like a drug house," he said. "We raid two or three of those at a time. Do we miss some? Yeah. And then the other ones change their ways for a little while, but it's just a matter of time before we catch them too. It's not a one-time catch-all. It's an ongoing process."
Three weeks ago the attorney general simultaneously raided eight of Warren's 10 massage parlors after a yearlong investigation that included clandestine cameras and statements from about 40 customers who said they paid for sex.
The attorney general's office is working with Trumbull County prosecutors to determine potential criminal charges. Two hearings in non-criminal matters are scheduled for this week.
Monday, Warren Law Director Greg Hicks will present testimony that could include 15 of the spas' customers in a hearing that could lead to permanent closing of the eight raided spas.
Hicks said Friday he's been negotiating with several of the building owners, some of whom have no ties to the spas other than leasing the space, to agree to kick out their tenants and agree to never lease to another massage parlor. Hicks said the building owners would then be allowed to lease the building to other tenants immediately. If Judge W. Wyatt McKay finds the spas to be nuisances, the buildings would be boarded up for one year.
Gary Rich, the attorney for two spas and one building owner, said he plans to fight the claims of wrongdoing.
Wednesday, Hicks also will present testimony in front of the city health department seeking to permanently revoke the massage parlors' licenses.
In the meantime, though, four spas continue to operate in Trumbull County.
Niles Mayor Ralph Infante said that city has not considered asking for the attorney general's help in shutting down the 5974 Youngstown Warren Road spa because he is letting the police department dictate what should be done with the spa.
Niles police Chief Rob Hinton said they've been checking on the spa periodically.
"We'll be checking on them from time to time," Hinton said. "We will be keeping them monitored."
Infante said he helped pass legislation that put restrictions on the spa, including a yearly $500 license and unannounced visits by the city's police, health and zoning departments. The legislation also included that no more massage parlors would be allowed to operate in the city.
"I'd like to shut it down," Infante said. "But we'd have to do it within the law."
Both Infante and Braceville trustee Todd Brewster said they believe the state should more involved with regulating health spas.
Brewster said he believes that the state legislators, or through a vote, could put more restrictions and regulations on spas operating in the state. He said it's especially difficult for Braceville because they are unable to enact restrictions like cities.
"I wish the state would turn around and stop them all," Brewster said. "The problem goes higher than us. The state should control it."
A search warrant affidavit said Nicholas O. Rodzianko, of Cleveland, told investigators he frequented several of the massage parlors in Warren and the Four Seasons Spa throughout the past decade. He said he typically paid $40 to a greeter and paid another fee for sex acts.
Brewster said he's worried that if the spas are pushed out of the city, they will eventually migrate to the suburbs or townships. He also said he is worried about bigger problems in the township than the spa.
"We have a lot of other bigger problems in this township than that," he said. "We had a big drug bust last week. To me that's more important than the massage parlor."