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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

A Vegas Tale - Secret Neighborhood Brothels

"I'll take a baseball bat and break his head if he
ever comes here." LV Mayor Oscar Goodman

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
April 12, 2010

Steve Miller photographs front door of neighborhood brothel
LAS 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, "Las 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 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 new house.

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 identity.

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 the purchase.

The 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 these days.

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 the 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 door.

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, however.

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.

According to Herbert, he asked Goodman (left - glaring at 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 sex trafficking!

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 Las Vegas.

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!



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 altered the
way political campaigns are run in the state of Nevada.

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