A Saskatoon police bust of an alleged brothel began with a single officer's suspicions and ended with three women charged with running a bawdy house and living off the avails of prostitution.
Search warrant documents obtained by CBC News detail the range of tactics police used to investigate the Sunshine Spa located across from Saskatoon's City Hospital at 504 Queen St.
Beginning last December and continuing for nearly three months, a small team of vice-squad officers monitored internet chatter about the spa, conducted undercover surveillance and even interviewed spa clients prior to obtaining a warrant to search the business for potential evidence.
In the documents, Det.-Const. Robert Lechner said he became suspicious after seeing "provocative" advertisements on Craigslist, an internet classified ad website, by women offering massages in exchange for cash. The ads featured scantily clad or topless Asian women offering services on an in-house or outcall basis, Lechner said.
The ads were placed between Dec. 10, 2009 and Jan. 4, 2010, by women who used the pseudonyms Apple, Gigi and Betty, police said.
By Dec. 29, police had begun physical surveillance of the spa, and over the next month, officers began watching male clients who were seen coming and going from the business. Police would run their licence plates to get their names and addresses.
While their names have been redacted by court order, the documents show some vehicles bore licence plates from as far away as New York City and North Dakota. Many others appear to have been local clients.
On a few occasions, police would pull over the vehicles and interview the drivers once they were safe from being seen by anyone working at the spa.
One man told police in a statement that "he was offered and accepted a 'full body massage' for $200, this consisted of sexual intercourse and … massage of penis,'" the search warrant said.
Another said he went to the spa after seeing a Craigslist ad and was offered a "Happy Ending" but refused.
'$200 for everything'
The investigation went deeper undercover on Jan. 27 when a plainclothes officer set up an in-house appointment at the spa and was given a listing of services and prices by a woman on arrival.
"[He] was advised that a massage for ½ hour was $50, $80 for one-hour massage, an extra $50 for a massage of his penis … and $200 for everything, which included sex," Lechner said
All the while, other officers were monitoring reviews of the Sunshine Spa that were posted online by clients. Some described being able to purchase sex at the business.
Not long after Feb. 9, police applied for the warrant to enter the spa and seize any employee records, computer equipment, bank records and other items that may provide evidence of a crime. The warrant does not indicate whether any such evidence was found.
Charges against three women, who have not been identified, were laid shortly after police raided the business but weren't made public until early April.