Female masseuse charged with prostitution at south Evanston parlor

Marshall Cohen

A female masseuse was charged with prostitution Wednesday after she allegedly agreed to perform a sex act for payment at a south Evanston massage parlor.

Chicago resident Haihua Zhang, 43, allegedly agreed to “go beyond the normal massage” in exchange for compensation from an undercover police officer, said Evanston Police Department spokesman Cmdr. Jay Parrott.

The undercover officer, who is a member of the EPD tactical unit, posed as a customer at Acupuncture Center and Herbs, 1905 Howard St., at about 3 p.m. Wednesday. Zhang rents a room from the landlord of the south Evanston business, said Dr. Mark Xiang, who runs the acupuncture center.

Shortly after Zhang allegedly made the agreement, she was arrested by police officers waiting outside the massage parlor, Parrott said.

Xiang described Zhang as a “good lady” who barely understands English and probably made a grammatical mistake.

“The conclusion is that the police set her up,” Xiang said. “She never did it. She fell into the trap of the police officer.”

Xiang claimed the police officer paid the regular rate of $45 for a half-hour massage but later asked to pay for extra services and pointed to his penis.

“She said ‘no, no’ then she kept saying no,” Xiang added, alleging that the undercover officer repeatedly asked for additional services.

Xiang also said the business has been repeatedly targeted by 20 to 30 undercover officers in the past two months asking for sexual services.

“All of their requests for sexual favors were denied by the ladies,” Xiang added.

Parrott said he was unaware of any previous visits to the Howard Street business. Wednesday’s sting operation occurred after EPD received an “outcry from the community” Tuesday about possible prostitution occurring at the location. Parrott said he did not have information regarding who filed the complaint.

The business is located in Evanston’s 8th Ward. Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) posted a comment Friday about the arrest on an online community message board.

“We have not had many drug or loitering issues since the city bought the three buildings on Howard,” Rainey wrote. “Not to start a debate, but I think drugs are a frequent partner in the business of prostitution.”

Drugs were not involved in the recent prostitution arrest, Parrott said. Rainey did not return phone messages and emails seeking comment over the weekend.

Parrott added that prostitution arrests are relatively uncommon in Evanston, although incidents have occurred in the past, primarily at massage parlors. Police have previously helped close Evanston businesses because of alleged prostitution, he said.

Two female employees were arrested last April at Carnation Spa, 1239 Chicago Ave., and charged with prostitution after a similar investigation involving undercover EPD officers.

EPD has previously received complaints of prostitution occurring via Craigslist as well, Parrott said. More frequently, however, officers will pose as street prostitutes and then charge people who offer to pay for sex with solicitation.

Zhang will face her misdemeanor charge May 21 in Skokie.

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