A man who assisted his wife in the management of a massage parlour providing “happy endings” has been jailed for two months.
Xiangfu Zheng (42) denied to gardaí he had any knowledge that sexual acts were being carried out at the massage parlour managed by his wife. Prior to their arrest, gardaí had twice warned his wife to cease any sexual acts being performed in her establishment.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that there was no suggestion that any of the workers in the parlour were trafficked or coerced.
Zheng, with an address at Dorset Street Lower, Dublin City centre, was convicted by a jury of assisting in the management of a brothel at Jasmine Massage Parlour, Dorset Street Lower, on dates between January 29, 2016 and July 19, 2017. He had pleaded not guilty to the offence.
The court heard that his wife Qiuping Chen (36), of the same address, pleaded guilty before the court to management of a brothel and in December 2020, she received a two-and-a-half year sentence which was fully suspended
Passing sentence on Tuesday, Judge Pauline Codd said this seemed to have been a relatively small operation rather than one with multiple premises and it was clear the accused man's wife was managing it.
Judge Codd said the accused was assisting and was living off illegal earnings. She said there was “something particularly parasitic about that type of existence” of living off the illegal earnings of women.
She said the case was mitigated by his lack of previous convictions and his not coming to adverse garda attention since. She accepted the admissions he made to gardaí were helpful to the prosecution.
Judge Codd sentenced Zheng to 18 months imprisonment, but suspended the final 16 months on strict conditions.
When asked to enter a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, Zheng told the court through his translator that “I don't know what I did wrong”. After discussion with his legal team, Zheng agreed to enter the bond.
Judge Codd then said that just so Zheng understands, “prostitution is illegal in this country”.
During the sentencing hearing, Detective Garda Pauline Traynor told Fiona Crawford BL, prosecuting, that in January 2016, a garda went undercover posing as a client at the massage parlour and was offered a “happy ending”.
Det Gda Traynor said her colleague then revealed himself to be a garda, she entered the shop and they both informed Chen that “happy endings” were illegal in Ireland and instructed her to cease any sexual acts being conducted in her establishment.
Gardaí returned on a further occasion, during which Chen admitted “happy endings” were still being carried out and she was again warned to cease such acts.
Det Gda Traynor said that in July 2017, gardaí conducted a search of the massage parlour, during which they discovered a room at the back with a bed in it, a perfume box containing condoms and a price list for certain acts.
Phone seized during the search were analysed and found to contain a large amount of messages between workers and customers. Various sexual requests were made in the messages, while prices and appointments were also discussed.
CCTV footage obtained during the search showed matters of “sexual activity” inside the parlour, including workers and customers moving through rooms while naked or partially naked. The footage also showed the accused man opening the parlour in the morning.
In interview with gardaí, Zheng made admissions regarding hiring staff and making advertisements for the parlour, but claimed he did not know anything about sexual acts occurring between workers and customers.
Following this investigation, the Central Assests Bureau (CAB) conducted their own investigation, during which they seized the parlour and €50,000 in a bank account belonging to the accused and his wife.
Revenue also conducted an investigation, leading to an agreement that Zheng and Chen would pay €60,000 over three years. The court heard both accused are legal residents in this country.
Det Gda Traynor agreed with Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing BL, defending, that there was no suggestion that any of the workers at the massage parlour were trafficked or coerced.
The detective agreed with counsel that while his client denied the offence, his admissions were used as “weapons of evidence” against him in the trial. She agreed he now works as a taxi driver and has two young children with his wife.
She agreed that when his client's wife was sentenced, it was submitted in court that the act of providing “happy endings” to massages is something that is “quite common” in China.
Mr Ó Dúnlaing said that as CAB have taken away the parlour and other sums, and his client has been left with a bill to Revenue on top of that, this was not a situation where his client earned money and got away with it.
Counsel said his client has not come to garda attention since this offence. He asked the court to impose a non-custodial sentence.
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