A pair of King County residents have been charged with promoting prostitution and operating nearly a dozen Washington state massage businesses as fronts, including one in north Federal Way.
The defendants, 47-year-old Gerald “Jerry” Emtage and 51-year-old Jing Emtage, are both charged with leading organized crime, money laundering and 10 counts of promoting prostitution in the second-degree. They were taken into police custody May 2.
“Over the course of two years, Gerald and Jing Emtage owned and operated an extensive criminal enterprise spanning four counties in Washington State and it appears that they may have been planning to expand their business to other states,” prosecutors allege in court documents. “During that time [they made] significant profits from the commercial sexual exploitation of dozens of women.”
Furthermore, prosecutors say: “While the victims slept and ate in the same buildings where they were required to provide sexual services to strange men, the defendants were living in a home valued at over a million dollars. While the defendants funneled over a million dollars through their bank accounts and hid hundreds of thousands of dollars in their home, there are no state records of any wages paid to their victims.”
The investigation began in January 2021 when a citizen complained to the King County Sheriff’s Office about a massage storefront in Seattle called Element Massage, according to charging documents. That business was owned by “J&J Relax Spa LLC,” which in turn was owned by the Emtages, according to police. Twelve total known massage businesses were operated under J&J.
The Federal Way location, “Apple Massage,” is located in the 28700 block of Pacific Highway South. The 432-square-foot wood frame building, and the 12,000 square foot property it sits on, were bought in late 2022 by “J&J 28707 LLC,” which still currently owns it, according to King County property records.
According to the Secretary of State’s website, Gerald Emtage is the governor of J&J 28707 LLC, which was formed Oct. 27, 2022 — about two weeks before the company bought the property.
The building was previously a rock chip car repair store, a barbershop and a clothing store, based on historical photographs from Google Images.
According to police, undercover detectives entered the J&J storefronts and posed as customers, paying for regular, non-sexual massages, according to charging documents. During those undercover operations, an “offer and agreement for a sexual act(s) was verbally agreed upon for an additional fee or ‘tip’ then declined by the detectives,” according to police. During each visit, they were offered sex acts in exchange for a fee.
A building owner also reported to law enforcement that she had discovered the Emtages had built an unpermitted wall at one of the businesses to create an apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, shower and bedroom. Detectives further obtained evidence that the women working in those businesses resided there.
Furthermore, police saw Jing Emtage take women from one business to another, including taking one woman directly from SeaTac airport to a massage business in Burlington. A seizure of Jing Emtage’s phone by Customs and Border Protection turned up extensive conversations about the storefronts, police said, which included discussions about collecting money, delivering condoms and moving workers around.
Detectives covertly followed the Emtages on a trip to Hawaii in April, working with local police there to track them as they visited a storefront massage business in Honolulu. On an undercover visit to that business, a woman who spoke little English offered sex acts to a detective, who declined, according to police.