Kennewick business owner, women admit to not having licenses to practice massage

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldNovember 22, 2012 

— A Kennewick business owner and two employees admitted Wednesday that they weren't licensed to practice massage therapy when authorities raided the place this summer after allegations that customers were being sexually assaulted.

Charges that the female employees had assaulted customers for their own sexual gratification were dismissed in Benton County Superior Court as part of plea agreements.

All three won't have to do any more jail time because Judge Craig Matheson gave each of them credit for the time they sat behind bars after their August arrests.

Li Shu Cui, owner of China Sun Foot Massage and China Sun Massage, apologized for failing to get a proper business license. His lawyer told the court that Cui has given up his business in Kennewick and has no intention of restarting it.

"Your honor, please forgive me that I have caused so much trouble to the government of the United States," Cui said through a Mandarin Chinese interpreter. "I will not be in the massage business anymore, and I will not make the same mistake again. If I am to do another business, I will follow the laws of the United States."

Cui also asked the judge to give him a chance to start over.

The 41-year-old Kennewick man pleaded guilty to two counts of practicing a profession without a license. One charge was a gross misdemeanor and the second a felony.

Another felony charge for the same crime was dismissed.

State law says practicing without a license becomes a felony offense after the first violation.

Xiu Qin Sun, 44, and Yan Zhen Lo, 43, each pleaded guilty to one count of practicing without a license, a gross misdemeanor.

A felony charge for the same crime and two counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation were dismissed against each woman.

Lo initially was identified by authorities as Lo Yan Zhen, and at an earlier court appearance she said her name should be Lu Yan Zhen. On Tuesday, she was recognized by the judge and in court documents with the last name of Lo.

Both massage businesses were shut down in mid-August after being raided by Kennewick police, with help from U.S. marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

China Sun Foot Massage was on Grandridge Boulevard, and China Sun Massage was on West Kennewick Avenue.

Detectives also searched the Deschutes Avenue apartment where Cui lived with five of his female employees.

Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire had alleged in court documents that Sun sexually assaulted a female customer July 27 by having the woman disrobe, leaving her completely exposed at least once and touching her inappropriately several times.

Sun, who is known as Susan, also was accused of sexually assaulting a retired male Pasco police officer who was undercover Aug. 6.

Lo's charges included allegations that she sexually assaulted the same retired officer Aug. 2 and an undercover female officer from Kennewick on July 30.

She was known by customers as Linda.

Sun wrote in her plea statement that she did have a valid license to practice massage therapy in Florida but did not get one in Washington, as is required by law.

She served 10 days in jail after her arrest. Judge Matheson sentenced her to 364 days in jail with 354 days suspended and said she will be on community supervision for up to a year or until she pays off her legal costs and fines.

Sun's lawyer, Sam Swanberg of Kennewick, said it was "a well-negotiated plea" with a fair resolution for his client, given the circumstances.

Lo spent 13 days behind bars. The prosecutor recommended giving her 351 days suspended, but Matheson opted to make it the same as Sun's sentence so it wouldn't appear different on court documents.

Her lawyer, Chuan-Yi Phillip Su of Renton, said Lo had the money to pay her legal obligations in full immediately after court. He added that she had no other "criminal law violations" before this case.

Neither woman addressed the court.

Though the attorneys said they don't believe there will be "negative immigration consequences" because of the pleas, Judge Matheson made sure the defendants knew he couldn't make any guarantees since that falls under another agency.

Frederick P.S. Whang of Seattle, an immigration lawyer who represented Cui, said his client "must advise the Department of Homeland Security of his presence at all times."

Cui was jailed for 38 days after his arrest.

Whitmire asked the judge to give him a three-month jail sentence "due to the fact that we believe that Mr. Cui is by far the most culpable out of the three.

"It was his business. It's my understanding that he had previously held a proper license in Florida, so certainly we have reason to believe that he was aware that there are requirements, at least in other states," she added. "If he didn't know (that a license is required) in this state, at least he had sufficient information that he should have made the inquiry."

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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