3 prostitution arrests in Plaza

3 prostitution arrests in Plaza
Photos Provided by Rivkin Radler

Undercover operations by the Nassau Count Police Department led to the prostitution arrests of three women in Great Neck Plaza last week, the latest in a series of stings against both alleged sex workers and johns that have taken place in Great Neck and across Nassau County in recent months.

Na Pei, 35 and Jia Ping Chen, 47 of Flushing were arrested June 4 for allegedly propositioning an undercover officer in an office at 1 Barstow Road. The suite allegedly used by the women was in the same building as other legitimate offices and businesses, including the recently opened Great Neck office of Congressman Steve Israel.

Boram Choi, 28, Hicksville was arrested the same day on prostitution charges while working at 27 North Station Plaza, a commercial building near the Great Neck Long Island Rail Road station that is also home to Great Neck Photo Imaging.

The businesses that were charged were among a series of massage parlors and day spas identified by the Great Neck Plaza as suspicious when the village first began working with the NCPD’s vice squad in 2011 to crack down on prostitution, Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender said.

“They were on our hit parade,” Celender said. “When they come in, we come in simultaneously and give summonses for not having proper licenses.”

Those investigations take time as undercover officers gain the trust of alleged sex workers, Celender said.

The arrests came one day after the Nassau County District Attorney’s office announced the arrests of 104 alleged prostitution clients in “Operation Flush the Johns,” in which undercover officers posing as prostitutes arranged meetings with prospective customers using listings in Backpage.com. Among those arrested were several Town of North Hempstead residents, including Great Neck residents Tamir Dardashtian and Ricky Somekh.

“Not only do people have a right to know who their prosecutors and police are arresting and charging with crimes, but we know that the commission of this specific crime is dramatically affected by the perceived risk of getting caught,” District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a press release. “We are giving fair warning to johns that the risk is growing rapidly.”

Rice said that the operation was designed to rebalance a prosecution system that targets prostitutes far more regularly than their customers.

“Sex workers are often vulnerable victims of traffickers and pimps, yet they too often remain the prime targets in prostitution investigations while the johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses,” Rice said in the release. “My office and the department are turning the tables on the illogical and immoral nature of that equation.”

In an earlier bust, a Queens woman was arrested for prostitution while allegedly operating from a basement leased out by neighborhood hair salon Joseph & Co. in Great Neck Plaza.

Jingkun Zhang, 42, of Flushing allegedly massaged and offered to perform a sex act for an additional fee on the undercover officer shortly after noon on Feb. 27, while operating in a basement room subletted from the Bond Street salon.

That massage business was not on the radar of village officials and was operating without a permit from the village, which passed a law in 2011 to crack down on unlicensed massage parlors, Celender said at the time.

The village has been working with police on investigations of unlicensed massage operations since passing stricter permit requirements last summer, Celender said. 

About 20 such permits have been issued over the last year and four or five parlors have been shuttered after investigations, Celender said.

The salon’s owner Joseph Pugliese, whose salon has served the Great Neck community for decades, said customers for the massage parlor would come in through the front door and head downstairs, but that he never suspected any illegal activity by his tenant.

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