4 Investigates: Oriental Health Spa in Albuquerque
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Four years ago, 4 Investigates exposed a dark secret going on behind the doors of some local massage businesses.
Our cameras captured workers offering sexual favors, and they witnessed signs of human trafficking.
Despite calls for better regulation and meaningful change in our laws back then, our state is no closer to exposing what goes on behind closed doors.
“If there’s no way to get to the other side of the door or if we’ve created obstacles to get into the other side of the door, we’re never going to know the full scope of this problem,” said Deputy Director of Prosecution at the Attorney General’s Office Mark Probasco.
Since then, the victim list has only gotten longer.
It looks like a deal: luxurious relaxation for a discounted price. But what brought us to Albuquerque’s Oriental Health Spa on Pennsylvania and Menaul was a “service” not listed on any menu.
With a friend’s recommendation, and rave reviews online, one woman walked into the spa for a full-body massage. She agreed to speak to us anonymously because of what happened.
“I definitely had a gut feeling, a very off feeling for sure,” she said.
That feeling followed her to a back room enclosed by curtains. She was instructed to undress before getting on the massage table. A few minutes later a man, her masseur, entered the room.
“It started off perfectly normal. It started off with neck and head and started off with simple rubbing,” she said.
But soon, she said, that man was nearly straddling her back.
“He was just very stuck, basically from my butt to my feet for a while. He would spread my legs and I would try, it wasn’t just like a little spread, it was more of an uncomfortable kind of spread, like it was ‘this is too far.’”
About halfway in, she said she was sexually assaulted.
“He would rub my vagina outside my underwear, then he would go with his thumbs. Whenever he was spreading my butt apart, he would go right under the seams I guess of the underwear. So he wasn’t fully in, but he was like a little bit in,” she said.
She reported it to the Albuquerque Police Department, and just a couple of days later so did another woman. Another alleged victim, this one claiming the same man had put his finger inside her vagina.
Police have identified the masseur as Xuebin Dong. Staffers knew him as Peter. There’s a warrant out for his arrest on charges of criminal sexual penetration and criminal sexual contact.
Shortly after the investigation started workers told police “Peter” left. Documents allege he moved out of state.
Albuquerque police investigated similar sexual assault allegations from other female customers in 2018, 2020, and 2021. All of them claim their masseur “digitally penetrated” them.
Those cases went nowhere. In one case, the victim wouldn’t return calls, in another a suspect was never identified. In the third case, the District Attorney’s office told us they didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute.
If you look hard enough– mixed among the glowing reviews online are women calling their service “creepy” another claiming her masseur started “kissing her body.”
“It’s a public safety issue and a public health issue,” said Probasco.
Mark Probasco with the Attorney General’s Office said there is an illicit side to some businesses operating under the guise of massage therapy. It’s because our state law doesn’t do much to regulate it.
“If you look at salon parlors, or barber shops there’s a significant amount of code enforcement that those boards are able to do to make sure you get a good haircut, and your nails get taken care of. Why in the world those similar powers are not granted to regulate a market where we know there is criminal activity occurring to some degree within that market,” said Probasco.
Anyone operating as a massage therapist in our state must be licensed. But establishments don’t need the same approval.
State regulators said that is what makes enforcement such an obstacle. There’s no one walking in the front door to make sure everyone is licensed. The man at the center of this story, Xuebin Dong, was not.
A new law makes operating without a license a more serious offense.
“Come July 1 of this year any unlicensed individual could be fined up to $10,000,” said Melissa Salazar, Boards and Commissions Director with the Regulation and Licensing Department.
But Salazar said cracking down on businesses would require another change in state law. Something we pointed out four years ago, and lawmakers attempted in 2020. But it didn’t happen.
For now, what happens behind these doors remains anyone’s guess.
“I kept saying no, obviously. I was saying no before this, but he wasn’t listening, or he would stop and continue it. After that, that’s when tried to pull down my underwear,” the victims aid.
The victim we spoke to knows now she’s not alone.
We tried to speak to Oriental Health Spa. Someone with the business told us they are cooperating with the investigation.
They sent KOB 4 the following statement:
“A brief introduction to our business operation, inside our establishment we have partition walls that doesn’t go up all the way to the ceiling, and we use curtains as doors, the purpose is to prevent anything of sexual nature from happening, since clients can freely call for help and all employees and other customers could hear immediately. Though it doesn’t provide a 100% relaxing environment with noises, but it serves as a warning for people to be aware of their surroundings, that everything done will be heard. We rely on the integrity of each massage therapist to uphold to their professional ethics, we cannot interrupt the massage while in session, therefore we can only rely on hearing any abnormalities with the help of these partition walls and curtains.”
When we asked if the business ensures their workers are in fact, licensed professionals. They stopped responding.
“I’m hoping that something happens, and ideally I would love the place to be shut down,” said the woman who alleges she was assaulted.
Now, she’s hoping her story helps others. A story she said she was ashamed to even report.
You can file a complaint with RLD against individuals who are not licensed. But the best thing you can do is to make sure your therapist is licensed before your visit.