A Vegas Tale - Secret
"I'll take a baseball bat
and break his head if he
ever comes here." -
Mayor Oscar Goodman
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
April 12, 2010
Miller photographs front door of neighborhood brothel
VEGAS - In September 2007, I received a call from New York Times
columnist Bob Herbert in regard to my March 20, 2006, INSIDE VEGAS column,
Vegas is the end of the road in the sex slave trade."
The column had earlier also caught the
attention of Dr. Melissa Farley, a San Francisco psychologist and researcher
who has been studying the sex trade in Nevada for years and is the author
of the book "Prostitution
and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections."
Mr. Herbert said he wanted to get together
in Las Vegas with Dr. Farley and me within the next week. He said he was
writing a New York Times column on sex trafficking, and felt I could
be helpful. I offered to show him and Dr. Farley my town's best kept secrets
-- our neighborhood brothels.
My inspiration for writing the 2006 AmericanMafia.com
column that Herbert and Farley read was my suspicion that a massage parlor
located just around the corner from my home was actually a brothel. However,
I had no proof in 2006, so I could not write a definitive column about
neighborhood prostitution -- that's until last week when a mysterious letter
that answered my questions was taped to the front door of a neighbor's
Las Vegas is in a terrible housing slump,
and many once valuable homes in good neighborhoods are being purchased
for less than half what they were worth only three years ago. One such
bargain was recently purchased by a man I'll call "Ron" to protect his
When Ron first located the 2,000 square
foot four bedroom house located near my westside neighborhood, he called
and asked me to accompany him on a walk-through inspection to give my opinion.
The foreclosed house was being offered
by a bank for around $100,000. Before the walk-through, I looked up the
property on the Clark County Assessor's website and discovered it had sold
in 2006 for $270,000. I informed Ron that it was a steal especially since
the government would give him a $6,000 tax credit as an incentive to make
house was located behind a shopping center that houses a massage parlor
called "Oriental Angels."
Based on years of research, my worst fear
is that some of the masseuses working there are prostitutes who are still
in their teens.
On the afternoon of our walk-through, it
was raining heavily. The weather gave us an advantage since roof maintenance
is commonly ignored in the desert until it rains. The house was still being
lived in so we decided to make our visit brief. Upon entering, I noticed
that the front door had been forced open because the hinges were bent and
the door jams were damaged.
After stepping inside, It began to become
clear why the 25 year old house was so undervalued.
The interior was dark and dingy. There
were mattresses placed throughout the living room that was littered with
empty wine bottles and overflowing ashtrays. Several Asian men were seated
at a table in the kitchen smoking and playing cards. They looked away when
I said hello.
I noticed that most of the light bulbs
had been removed as we walked through the house to the darkened bedrooms.
The bedroom doors had also been kicked in and would not close properly.
There were more mattresses on the floor, and several men were observed
sleeping. I counted thirteen men before leaving. No one spoke English.
The only good thing I could say after the inspection was that the roof
was not leaking.
I felt very uneasy about recommending the
filthy house to my friend. Maybe it was the way the men playing cards would
not make eye contact with Ron or me. Maybe it was the bashed in doors,
the darkness, the stale cigarette smoke, or the mattresses on the floor.
But something was definitely wrong with that house.
Ron scoffed at my advice to look elsewhere
saying he would use the tax credit to hire a professional crew to fumigate
and paint the interior. Eight weeks later, he has moved into his new home
and is very pleased with the results and the bargain price he paid.
During the three week long clean up process,
Ron said an Asian girl came to the door. The girl who looked to be in her
teens didn't speak English, but pointed to a lemon tree in the yard and
gestured that she would like to pick lemons. Ron allowed her to do so,
and she quickly left with a scarf full of fruit. She hasn't returned.
The previous residents seemed to be in
a very big hurry to leave because they left behind many of their personal
belongings including new appliances, clothes, tools, furniture, electronics,
gym equipment, and several oil paintings. We later learned that the bank
repossessed the house from the woman who owns Oriental Angels.
Ron's new neighbors described the former
residents as unfriendly and secretive. They told of several noisy visits
by the police that resulted in the broken front and interior doors. The
raids went mostly unnoticed possibly because for the seventh consecutive
year Nevada tops the rankings as the
nation's most dangerous state. Police breaking down doors in quiet
Vegas neighborhoods has become almost commonplace and attracts little attention
Ron's neighbors said the men living in
the house were involved with the Oriental Angels massage parlor, but could
not say what they did to benefit the business. They just let us know they
were relieved that their mysterious neighbors were gone!
An elderly widower living nearby told me
of a young Chinese girl he met at Oriental Angels. He said he was in love
with her and wanted to help her get a green card. He added that after he
was observed discussing his plan with the girl in the alley behind the
parlor, she suddenly left town and no one at the parlor would tell him
where she went.
According to Dr. Farley's books and articles,
young Asian women are enticed to travel to the United States on tourist
visas purportedly to become actresses or models. Many arrive in Vancouver,
Canada, and are quickly transported to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and
Houston to be "broken in" as sex slaves. They eventually end up working
in Las Vegas neighborhood shopping center massage parlors. Farley suspected,
based on her interviews with women in legal Nevada brothels, that many
of them have also been trafficked to Nevada in the same way.
The Asian massage parlor girls are purportedly
threatened that if they try to escape or go to the police, their relatives
back home will be killed. To keep them subservient, they're not allowed
to learn or speak English, leave the massage parlor, or have relationships
with outsiders. When they become problematic, the girls are shuttled to
other cities. That's probably what happened to the girl the elderly widower
was infatuated with.
I discussed the nearby massage parlor with
my neighbors, and we agreed to keep our eyes on the business since it's
located next to a McDonald's frequented by small children. Oriental Angels
is a magnet for taxi drivers that drop off men, then wait outside with
meters running until their fares return -- usually after about ten minutes.
Drivers are allegedly paid up to $150 cash per passenger delivered, something
Internal Revenue Service is looking in to.
I was told by another man that he was offered
a "Happy Ending" by one of the Oriental Angels girls during his massage.
Knowing that usually means a prostitution transaction, I immediately informed
the city business license department of my concerns. That was in 2008.
Since then, the Las Vegas City Council has approved dozens of new massage
parlors in neighborhoods. In the case of Oriental Angels, no action was
taken until last week when the mysterious letter was taped to Ron's front
No recipient's name was printed on the
front of the envelope so Ron opened it. He immediately called the City
of Las Vegas Office of Business Development to say it was sent to wrong
address. After making copies, he read the letter to me over the phone.
The letter informed the owner of Oriental
Angels that there had been five instances of prostitution reported at that
location, and the business license was being challenged. That was enough
to confirm my previous suspicions and inspire this column. And the letter's
message may have been what caused the men who once lived in Ron's house
to leave town in such a hurry and abandon their personal belongings. (Ron
donated everything to Goodwill.) Oriental Angels is still open for business,
Back to Bob Herbert's visit to Las Vegas.
After breakfast at my house, I drove Herbert
and Dr. Farley around the corner and parked near Oriental Angels. Herbert
was intent on going inside. I suggested he check for Nevada
Board of Massage Therapy licenses on display for every masseuse as
is mandatory in all Strip hotel spas, but -- for some unknown reason --
is not enforced in neighborhood massage parlors.
Herbert rang the door bell. (Coincidentally,
all legal brothels in Nevada also seem to have door bells – and many have
gates that require being buzzed in.). An Asian woman came to the glass
door and looked Herbert up and down. She opened the door and Herbert stepped
in. Dr. Farley and I waited outside.
A few minutes later, the door swung open
and Herbert was pushed out by the woman (most likely a madam or trafficker)
who was now yelling at him in Chinese.
Herbert said he asked the "madam" if he
could see the Nevada state licenses for each masseuse, and asked questions
about the operation such as the age of the employees and their immigration
status. Her response was self explanatory.
Herbert placed a call to City Hall.
Being a well known national journalist,
Bob Herbert was immediately connected to the Mayor's office where Oscar
Goodman came on the line.
to Herbert, he asked Goodman (left - glaring at AmericanMafia.com photographer
Mike Christ) several questions about prostitution and sex trafficking.
Goodman laid out his frequently floated notion of turning certain areas
of Las Vegas into a legal prostitution zone (he possibly had my neighborhood
in mind.). But Herbert was most shocked at Goodman's response when he mentioned
that Steve Miller took him to see Oriental Angels. Goodman flipped out!
That afternoon after he cooled off, the
mayor told a reporter about Herbert's call. "I
have no use for him. I'll take a baseball bat and break his head if he
ever comes here," stated Goodman. His remarks made national news, and
helped to further
embarrass our town. It's not that often that the mayor of a major U.S.
city threatens the life of a prominent reporter who asked questions about
Maybe the mayor was angry over Herbert's
September 8, 2007 New York Times op-ed entitled "Escape
From Las Vegas" which told about young women being taken advantage
of in Vegas. Herbert wrote; "They are the prey in the predatory world
of pimps, johns and perverts that goes by the euphemism: adult entertainment."
Much of the adult entertainment
Herbert speaks of is new to our town and based on exploitation
of teenage girls thanks to Mayor Goodman who refuses to enforce state
laws banning teenagers from stripping in LV topless bars that serve liquor.
Most of the businesses that exploit teenagers in this way are owned by
Italian businessmen, some with mob connections, who have lived in Las Vegas
for many years. However, the local massage parlor brothels are mainly
owned by Asian mobsters who have recently set up shop in the new
It's a old reality in Vegas that casinos
rule the state. Because legalized brothels are located sixty miles away
in another county, casino owners shudder each time a high roller leaves
town for six to eight hours to use a licensed prostitute. Because of this,
massage parlors, swingers' clubs, and escort prostitution have been tolerated
as long as they don't take gamblers away from the tables for long stretches
of time. And little consideration seems to be given to the spread of sexually
transmitted disease inherent in the unregulated Vegas sex industry, or
the uncollected taxes from the mostly cash trade.
Based on Mayor Goodman's careless remarks
about women, including: "When
you're 18, you're allowed to die for your country, so why can't some young
lady or young man perform?" ; the city's and state's lack of action
against neighborhood massage brothels; and Goodman's threat against a journalist
for asking relevant questions about sex trafficking, the Mayor, in
his uncontrolled rage, inadvertently expressed his most heartfelt feelings.
He obviously doesn't give a damn about teenage girls being exploited in
Vegas topless bars, or Asian sex slaves trapped in local massage parlors,
so long as horny male tourists keep pouring cash into our town. In fact,
he condones this secret horror show!
MORE INFORMATION ON MAYOR GOODMAN'S
A GREAT WEBSITE ABOUT VEGAS BEFORE OSCAR
Former four-term Las Vegas Mayor Oran Gragson
in 1991 endorsed
Steve's candidacy for Mayor of Las Vegas.
Steve's surprise loss
set a dangerous legal precedent and permanently
way political campaigns are run in the
state of Nevada.