The man accused of providing prostitutes for cash at a Darien massage parlor received accelerated rehabilitation and probation by a Stamford judge on Friday, May 24.
Fu Xu, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and both women formerly under his employ at the parlor — Xiuguin Lu and Fenjiao Gao — were given the program, which allows first time offenders to plead no contest and requires them to be trouble-free with the law for two years while also undergoing an education program.
John P. Thygerson, a lawyer who represented Xu, said the state initially argued against his request for AR for his client, but in the end his arguments over the unorthodox police work used by Darien cops to arrest the three persuaded the judge to accept the plea deal.
An undercover informant paid Lu $60 to receive a sex act, and later had the act completed two more times, according to the arrest affidavit. Thygerson said this is not the way sting operations are supposed to work.
“How do you sign up for that job?” Thygerson said. “There must be a mile-long line of people in Darien waiting for a job as a confidential informant.”
Typically, an informant is a civilian citizen who gets paid to help police make an arrest. Thygerson said it is unnecessary for the sex act to take place, and that all that should have happened was an agreement between two parties that the act would happen in exchange for money.
“They had given the confidential informant taxpayer money to go in to this place, engage in a sexual act at taxpayer expense, not once, not twice, but three times,” Thygerson said.
When asked about this soon after the arrest, Darien Police Capt. Fred Komm said, “All decisions relative to the investigation and subsequent arrests were coordinated between police investigators and the states attorney’s office.”
The state’s attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Komm said the money was seized as evidence.
“The judge may order it returned to the police department at some point,” he said.
In one case, the informant paid Lu $60 and gave Xu, the owner, $80 for the sexual act.
The rehab program also allows those accused to have their records wiped clean if they complete two years of probation without more incidents. It’s only available for defendants who have no prior criminal history.
Fenjiao Gao was reported to be an illegal immigrant, although her immigration status was not made available to The Darien Times by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as of press time. She was arrested for practicing massage without a license.
Xiuguin Lu was arrested for prostitution and practicing massage without a license. Fu Xu faced felony promoting of prostitution and misdemeanor permitting prostitution, along with three counts of violating massage licensing laws.
Thygerson noted that the state’s and police’s approach appeared rather aggressive in this instance.
“Nobody was hurt, nobody’s complaining about it,” he said. “And let’s call a spade a spade. We’re talking about the world’s oldest profession.”
The Darien Times earlier explored the possibility that the massage parlor, which was called Sunrise Health Therapeutic Massage and was located on the Post Road, was tied to the sex trafficking trade.
Police and immigration officials said they did not see evidence that sex trafficking was taking place. The women were represented by public defender Mark Welsh. Welsh did not respond to numerous requests for comment to determine his thoughts on whether his clients were victims or willing participants.
Megan Fowler, communication director for the Polaris Project, a nonprofit working to eliminate sex trafficking and other forms of human slavery, told The Darien Times that Asian sex trafficking networks “are heterogeneous” and difficult to pinpoint. However, there are things that happened in Darien that are consistent with many sex trafficking operations.
For example, there was evidence someone was living on site, and the parlor was locked and could only be entered if the visitor was buzzed in. Fowler also said that the “controller,” or the “papasan” as it’s known to illicit parlor patrons, train the women to fear police and to provide cops with canned stories.
Thygerson said he didn’t represent the women because that could have been a conflict of interest, if his clients started pointing fingers at each other.
Originally published in The Darien Times.