A Golden-area massage parlor operator expected a female employee from China to work for him for 10 years, performing illicit acts on clients for extra money. That’s according to an arrest affidavit filed by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office against Yuewu Zhao, a 53-year-old Highlands Ranch resident, who was recently arrested by deputies following several months of investigation into a Golden Spa.

During his first court appearance in mid-September, he was issued a $100,000 cash or surety bond. He’s next set to appear for a preliminary hearing on Oct. 17 at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

In February 2023, a spa client alleged to deputies that an assault and illegal sexual acts occurred. The client claimed that a female masseuse was a victim of human trafficking. Investigators also documented what they allege is a history of suspicious activity at the spa, along with other reports of prostitution and assaults, including in 2017, 2018 and 2023, according to the arrest affidavit.

Investigators then surveilled the massage parlor and an undercover deputy posed as a client.

On Feb. 23, deputies armed with a search warrant allege they found evidence at the spa at 16135 South Golden Road that Zhao and the female masseuse were living on the premises, along with financial documentation, electronic communications and other items relevant to the case.

The masseuse told investigators that she immigrated from China with Zhao and was in good standing with her massage therapy license.

The masseuse denied being coerced into offering sexual services. She told investigators that she was doing so voluntarily, according to the arrest affidavit.

However, in the months following, investigators found electronic communications between the masseuse and a client with whom she’d started a romantic relationship. In their communications, the masseuse stated she was wary of “the boss,” referring to Zhao, and that Zhao would periodically go through her phone and become suspicious of her talking to other men.

Investigators allege the masseuse agreed to work for Zhao for 10 years, and had already completed seven of them.

She was expected to work 12 hours every day and keep a steady list of clients, the affidavit continues. Zhao allegedly  kept her passport and used the promise of a Permanent Resident Card that would give her legal immigration status in the United States to control her, according to the affidavit. She also still had family members in China, and worried that Zhao could use his influence there to hurt them, investigators claim.

Because the masseuse was expected to live on the premises, wasn’t allowed to leave without Zhao’s permission and had limited to no access to her bank accounts, the Sheriff’s Office alleged that she is a victim of human trafficking.

When Zhao was arrested on Sept. 21, the Sheriff’s Office stated that the masseuse was the only known victim in the case and that the Victim Services Unit was supporting her.

As of end-of-day Sept. 26, the local public defender’s office, which is representing Zhao, had not responded to the Transcript’s request for comment.

In the wake of this case, the Sheriff’s Office has encouraged residents to report any suspected human trafficking activity to deputies. For more information about how to prevent human trafficking or to report suspected activity, visit humantraffickinghotline.org.

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