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Cops say spa's hidden cameras may have broadcast sex acts over the Internet

 

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Annie Sweeney / Chicago Sun-Times | December 27, 2006

Patrons of a Northwest Side massage parlor may have had their visits with prostitutes broadcast over the Internet, police said.

Based on statements from a woman who worked there and the sophistication of computer equipment seized from V.I.P. Salon & Day Spa, police believe sex acts might have been transmitted from small, curtained cubicles onto the Web, said Jefferson Park District Cmdr. Ralph Price.

Officers found tiny cameras mounted in the ceiling of several rooms at V.I.P.

"It's gone beyond just prostitution," Price said. "What you think may be private could be all over the place."

Investigators with the Vice Control Section said they had not heard of any similar computer set-up at other places of prostitution in the city.

"Really, this is kind of unchartered territory for us," said Lt. Paul Kusinski.

Price said the V.I.P. Salon at 4422 N. Milwaukee -- where customers have to be buzzed in -- has been a longtime problem for the neighborhood.

Chicago vice officers have raided the business seven or eight times over the past 18 months, and the city has filed complaints against the business, police said. The landlord of the business also filed a lawsuit in January 2006 seeking to evict the business owner, according to Cook County records.

The owner could not be reached for comment.

Charges stemming from the police raids were typically never more than misdemeanors. But now Chicago Police and the Cook County state's attorney's office are seeking more serious charges against the owner and manager for the alleged unlawful videotaping.

Price -- who has done premise checks himself on the business because of complaints -- said he hopes this latest raid will rid the neighborhood of V.I.P. for good.

"Finally, we can shut this guy down," Price said. "This could be the nail in the coffin."

Price's officers got their break on Dec. 20 when someone placed a 911 call to report that a woman at the business was screaming.

When officers arrived, a sergeant pulled back a curtain on two cubicles to find men having sex with women. But officers then spotted something else -- a pinhole camera in the ceiling.

"We followed all the wires," Price said. "They all went to a central computer."

Real money online: female suspect
One of the women arrested told police they charged the men for sex acts, but the real money was made from the share of profits from broadcasting on the Internet, Price said.

The officers obtained a search warrant, which was executed the next morning, Price said. The computer's hard drive was seized and will be analyzed, and police photographed all the cameras and the wires leading to the server.

The raid resulted in four people being charged, including a 20-year-old man for patronizing a place of prostitution, two women -- 39 and 20 -- for solicitation and a 51-year-old man for keeping a place of prostitution.

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