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Police investigating whether Bridgeville spa was also front for human trafficking ring

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 12:10 p.m.
A South Fayette tax collector owns this Bridgeville building, which was raided for suspected prostitution. Kevin Biber gave police rental and financial records on the 88 Spa and filed papers seeking to evict the business, Bridgeville police Chief Chad King said on Thursday. File photo

Bridgeville police are investigating whether the owner of a building housing a spa they raided knew it was being used for prostitution, and FBI agents want to know whether it was a front for human trafficking.

“It seems as though everyone else in the building knew what was going on” except the building's owner, said Bridgeville police Chief Chad King.

Police on Tuesday arrested three women working at the 88 Spa massage parlor in Bridgeville's main business district during a 14-month undercover investigation. Ok Ja Ko, 52; Chong Hee Kil, 57; and Heemae Jeong, 58, are charged with prostitution and conspiracy. Kil also is charged with promoting prostitution. Their nationalities and immigration status were unknown Wednesday.

King interviewed building owner Kevin Biber, the elected real estate tax collector in South Fayette for at least eight years, on Wednesday afternoon. Biber has office space in the Washington Avenue building but told officers he didn't know about any prostitution activity. He couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday.

“At this point he's showing a willingness to cooperate with us, sharing bank information that could lead our partners further down the money trail,” King said. He said Biber probably will not face charges or a borough citation.

Neighbors said they were suspicious of the spa, which opened in 2011 and could be entered only from a single door off Taylor Way, a dead-end alley running behind part of the block.

“When you're advertising on Craigslist, that's a problem. When your front entrance is in a back alley, that's a problem,” said Justin Adams, 35, co-owner of Castaways Outside Inn three doors down from Biber's building.

Nancy Gilmore, owner of MoZaic Boutique on Hickman Street near the entrance to Taylor Way, said she would watch the spa's all-male patrons park in her private lot when the spa first opened.

“The creepers started parking back there before we officially knew they were creepers,” said Gilmore, 45, of Collier, who notified police of her suspicions last spring and was told they were investigating.

Gilmore's employees suggested holding up “We know what you're doing” signs during their smoke breaks to shame men they suspected were there for sex. Ally Miller, 24, a stylist at the Hair2Sole salon on Hickman Street, said she glared at men as they hurried in and out. Salon owner Alena Gibbs, 34, warned her teenage son to stay away.

FBI spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba said the bureau's Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition is investigating whether the business was using women who were involuntarily pressed into prostitution and whether anyone should face federal charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office is reviewing the case, officials said.

King said the three women denied working against their will. They were released after posting $5,000 bond each.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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