Accused massage parlor operator expected to be released from jail
A Mt. Pleasant woman accused of being part of a human trafficking and prostitution ring through four massage parlors she ran in Monroeville and Murrysville will be released from custody April 22 and placed on electric home monitoring so she can prepare for trial.
Hui Xu, 44, who state police allege owned and operated four Tokyo Massage parlors where prostitution was occurring, on Friday waived her right to a preliminary hearing. The state attorney general’s office consented to a request that she be released from the Washington County Jail.
Attorney Charles Porter of Pittsburgh said his client intends to fight the charges and maintains she is innocent of permitting prostitution to occur in the parlors. Xu has been jailed on $100,000 bail since her arrest March 22.
Allegations filed against Xu are underwhelming, Porter said.
“I asked the prosecutor where the rest of it was because it didn’t really show me a whole lot to support the charges filed against my client,” he said.
Others accused of participating in the operation include Chang Yu Chen, 51, of Monroeville, who was described as a handyman and manager at the parlors; and Robert Delano Yerick, 83, of Delmont, who was described as an administrator and handyman. Both waived their right to preliminary hearings on Friday.
A fourth defendant, Huicun Wei, 47, of Flushing, N.Y., was granted a continuance by Senior District Judge Thomas S. Breletic until May 3. The office of Attorney General Josh Shapiro and state police identified her as the owner and manager at Judy’s Oriental Massage Parlor in Murrysville.
In Xu’s brief appearance Friday before Breletic, the judge wanted assurances that if he approved the China native’s release that she immediately be placed on electronic monitoring by the Westmoreland County Probation office. Senior Deputy Attorney General Katherine A. Wymard said that concern would be met.
“I did not want to see her walking out of the courthouse without a bracelet on,” Breletic said.
Xu is the widow of Henry “Sonny” Caruso. The 49-year-old veteran guard at the Westmoreland County Prison killed himself in November after being suspended from his job as a result of the investigation. Xu was held in Washington County because of that connection to the Hempfield jail.
Uniontown attorney Thomas Shaffer attended Friday’s court proceedings after being hired by Caruso’s relatives. He said they want his help in getting the state attorney general’s office to release some of the guard’s assets that were seized during the year-long investigation. Those include a life insurance policy and a vehicle owned by Caruso’s adult daughter.
“That life insurance policy is a pre-marital asset … He was a jail guard for 24 years … and his daughter was listed as the beneficiary,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer said he was retained by Caruso before his suicide as a result of the grand jury investigation and had met with 12 “workers” at Xu’s parlor.
“Right before they got married, I can tell you (Caruso and Xu) brought all 12 workers into my office and all 12 said nothing like (prostitution) happened. If anyone did something, it was done on their own and I was told that anyone who performed such an act would be immediately dismissed,” Shaffer said.
The statewide grand jury last month alleged that young Asian women working at five parlors in Monroeville and Murrysville were part of a human trafficking ring forced to perform sex acts.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, [email protected] or via Twitter .