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    Jack_Maehoffer

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    Search of sauna nets four arrests
    Deputies suspect VIP Sauna of promoting prostitution.
    By DEREK KRAVITZ

    Boone County sheriff’s deputies arrested four people, including a husband and wife, and seized money, documents and condoms packaged in bulk from a massage parlor on North Missouri 763 on Saturday after nearby residents claimed that prostitution was going on at the business.

    Boone County sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at VIP Sauna, 5210 N. Missouri 763, about 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Deputies said the search warrant was the result of several complaints alleging prostitution at the massage parlor.

    Deputies arrested Ok Hee Kim, 44, and Semsettin “Sam” Gogebakan, 45, on suspicion of second-degree promoting prostitution and Soung Auk Kim, 44, and Myeon Ok Kim, 33, on suspicion of prostitution. Myeon Ok Kim, of Columbia, and Soung Auk Kim, of Flushing, N.Y., were released on $500 bond Sunday. Ok Hee Kim, of Columbia, and Gogebakan, of Catonsville, Md., were released on $4,500 bond.

    Detective Clark Luntsford of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said Ok Hee Kim and Gogebakan, who have been married for about a year, bought the sauna in June. He said Gogebakan flew into Missouri from Maryland about once a month to see his wife and check on the business. Luntsford declined to comment on whether deputies were investigating a financial connection between prostitution in New York and Columbia.

    “Two of the people who were arrested are from New York,” Luntsford said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

    Luntsford said the Sheriff’s Department report on VIP Sauna would be forwarded to federal authorities.

    Luntsford said Ok Hee Kim is an illegal immigrant from South Korea. He said the two women arrested on suspicion of prostitution at the sauna did not claim any family ties to Ok Hee Kim. He could not confirm whether they, too, are unnaturalized. Luntsford said deputies seized about $5,000 in small bills from the sauna.

    “We always kept intelligence on them, but we didn’t hit them until we stumbled upon a way to get in,” Luntsford said. He declined to say how authorities infiltrated the massage parlor, but said deputies did not engage in any undercover work. Luntsford said the investigation at VIP Sauna is ongoing.

    Columbia police received a complaint against VIP Sauna in March. The person who complained, the business’s landlord, alleged that prostitution was going on at the sauna.

    “The landlord was scared for her safety,” Columbia police Capt. Zim Schwartze said in an earlier interview.

    No one was arrested and no charges were filed in connection with the complaint, Schwartze said in August. Luntsford said the unidentified landlord was not one of the people who complained in the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation.

    Luntsford said investigators discovered that customers would knock on the door at the sauna and be led into a room by somebody at the spa. Customers paid $40 for a half-hour or $60 for an hour as a “house fee,” Luntsford said. They would then negotiate for services, including sex, by offering “tips,” Luntsford said. In 2002, deputies arrested Sunny Ha, 52, from VIP Massage Parlor on suspicion of promoting prostitution after deputies seized financial records, a large supply of condoms, a video surveillance system, pornographic material, $200 and customer credit card receipts from the parlor. Ha pleaded guilty to attempted prostitution, a class C misdemeanor and paid a $300 fine.

    “Federal agents seized the property and all of the assets in 2002,” Luntsford said. “We think the same organization that owned it then bought it back.”

    Luntsford said that the sauna is under new ownership and that Ha has no financial connection to VIP Sauna.

    “Once they get in some kind of legal trouble, they kind of disappear,” Luntsford said.

    VIP Sauna is the only massage parlor in Boone County. Sakura Spa, which was across the street from VIP, was shut down in 2002 after county commissioners received several complaints from neighbors regarding prostitution.

    A phone number listed for VIP Sauna went unanswered Sunday. VIP Sauna and several other mid-Missouri massage parlors are listed on WorldSexGuide.org, a Web site where users have posted experiences they had with prostitutes