MOORHEAD, Minn. (Valley News Live)- Rumors of suspicious activity and unlicensed workers. Those are allegations that have caused a Moorhead massage spa to lose its license. But the owner of this business is fighting back.
"We did hear one instance where a man was seen carrying a box of condoms into this facility," says Moorhead Police Detective, Shawn Krebsbach.
It was an investigation months in the making and it's one that may have Moorhead city leaders talking for months. Detectives outlining to the Moorhead City Council what they learned about Season Relaxation Spa.
"My partner and I, we go in to have these massages done at the exact same time. We go in, there's two individuals ready to perform massages on each of us. We already know at that point that there's one person that's licensed," says Krebsbach.
It all started in January when the owner of the massage spa was looking to renew its license. That’s when a city staff member noticed something not quite right with the application. It was something as simple as a proper box not being checked.
But police already had an investigation underway. They got some tips about what they consider suspicious behavior.
"I had been receiving some other complaints from businesses around the area," says Krebsbach.
One of those complaints involved the person who previously owned the spa. Why that was a red flag? Because the previous owners tried opening the business in Fargo. The city commission there said no. They were concerned about possible prostitution. Then, just 6 months later they tried opening the spa again across the river. Moorhead said no too. But the spa did eventually open, under a new owner, Qin Gong.
"In April of 2018, Ms. Gong came here to open this exact same business. When I say open the same business, I say the same décor, the same sign that's outside that says Season Relaxation Spa," says Krebsbach.
That was enough for the city council. They said no to renewing the spa's license but Gong wants a second chance.
"She asking the customer if she do more, she can get more tips or not. But these things are not allowed to happen in our store and that's why I fire her," says Season Relaxation Spa Owner, Qin Gong.
And about having employees that are not licensed, Gong says it was a simple misunderstanding.
“Typically, it's pretty rare for us to deny an applicant."
Lt. Brad Penas with Moorhead Police tells us a majority of applicants in the city of Moorhead are approved. He couldn't go into details about this specific case but says massage parlors are sometimes scrutinized more because human trafficking is on everyone's radar.
But Gong isn't done, she wants her spa reopened and she says there's no prostitution going on there.
"I want to be clear here that we don't have evidence in this case that that's what’s happening here but I just wanted to point out this is a nationwide issue and that's why we want to pay particularly close attention to our licensing process," says Moorhead Police Chief, Shannon Monroe.