Four misdemeanor trials are set to begin in Vista stemming from what authorities labeled in June as a "prostitution sting" at nine Vista day spas, according to a published report.
The defendants, all of whom are Asian women, their attorneys and an advocate for one of the women, however, have argued the charges are frivolous, reported the North County Times. At least eight defendants, all spa employees, face charges brought by city attorneys, not for prostitution, but for a host of Vista municipal code violations, including failing to stock towels inside a cabinet, having a peep hole on massage room doors and the failure to display massage establishment licenses, among other charges.
Attorneys for the city say the misdemeanor charges aim to ensure day spas adhere to the law and do not become places of ill repute. If left unchecked, "massage parlors become fronts for other businesses, they become fronts for prostitution ... for slave trade," said Jim Eckart, a contract attorney for Vista who is prosecuting one of the cases.
Many of those arrested in June's undercover operation have already been charged by county prosecutors. Their charges are based on the California Penal Code -- not Vista's municipal code. One defendant has pleaded guilty to prostitution and another pleaded guilty to disturbing the peace, said a spokesman for the county district attorney's office. The county is preparing to take four additional cases to trial, all on prostitution charges.
Shao Hua Sunmiller, owner of Melrose Spa, said this week that she strongly disputed the idea that prostitution, or anything similar, took place at her spa. She said she did not know all of the city's regulations and that the municipal violations have been corrected.