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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Suspected brothel owners released from jail

Five women and one man arrested in a sweeping anti-prostitution investigation at Spokane-area spas and massage parlors have been released from jail. The suspects, who own four of eight suspected brothels raided Tuesday, have no criminal records and were allowed to leave without posting bond. Prosecutors did not object to their release, and they were ordered to return to court July 23 to be arraigned on charges of second-degree promoting prostitution and money laundering The raids on Tuesday culminated at 14-month investigation that used confidential informants and undercover officers to build a case against the longtime businesses. The Airway Heights Police Department launched the investigation after complaints of prostitution activity at Northern Quest Casino. Arrested were Yong Cha Kassim, 62, owner of Joe Jean’s Oriental Health Spa at 2712 N. Division St., Tony Ray Day, 36, and his mother, Chin Sim Day, 68, who own Oriental Spa North at 827 E. Francis Ave.; Insuk Argo, 59, who owns Starlite at 2829 N. Market St.; Jessica Vargas of Moses Lake, who owns Absolute Spa at 9315 E. Trent Ave.; and Diana Patricia Welch, 32, who owns Oriental Spa South, 515 S. Maple St. More arrests and charges are expected. After the hearing, Welch’s lawyer, David Miller, criticized the investigation. “Are all the crimes solved and we’re turning to this?” Miller told The Spokesman-Review. “I don’t see where this needs to be a priority in Spokane right now.” Carl Oreskovich, who is representing Chin Day, declined to comment. Tony Day is represented by Chris Phelps. Argo, Vargas and Kassim have not yet hired counsel. Also jailed in connection with the case in Tod A. Russell, 43, who police believes operates a website dedicated to prostitution in the Spokane area. Russell was arrested Monday in Cheney on felon in possession of a firearm charges. A confidential informant had told police back in April that Russell sold two guns at a Spokane pawn shop. The shop manager confirmed he’d paid Russell $1,250 for a Springfield 1911 A-1, which was stolen in Moses Lake in 2000, and a 9 mm Uzi, according to court documents. Russell has a felony conviction for attempting to elude police in 1987, as well as a federal conviction in 1998 for trying to smuggle a kilogram of cocaine from Mexico into Texas. Police developed probable cause to arrest Russell in April but waited until Monday so they could continue the probe using his message board. They worried the site would close if he was jailed, said Lee Bennett, chief of the Airway Heights Police Department. Court documents filed to support charges against the suspects describe calls made to the businesses by undercover police officers inquiring about services. Prices were described as “door fees” or “donations” and ranged from $70 to $500 depending on the act and how many women would be involved. Police noted employees’ use of sex slang terms and worked with informants who applied to work at the businesses. One informant who applied to work at Oriental Spa South said Welch told her she would need to provide her own condoms and take the used ones in a bag with her at the end of the day instead of leaving them in the businesses’ trash. Another informant told police that Day said “escorts” came to his spa “for the safety and security the spa provides,” according to court documents.