Sjiem Jok Tjong sat cross legged on a small chaise lounge, watching television while waiting for customers to come to New Moon Body Works located in a strip of tired storefronts near the corner of Belmont and Grove streets.
Wearing a white shirt, green pants, bright red lipstick and no shoes, the short, middle-aged woman said that she was "open, yes" for business – the red neon 'OPEN' sign was glowing in the front window – despite having been arrested by Belmont Police the day before, one of two raids on massage businesses that were alleged fronts for prostitution.
"No sell sex. No," said Tjong repeatedly, as she sat in the cramped front parlor where a threadbare vinyl couch is placed hard against a wall festooned with cheap posters extolling the virtues of Chinese medicine. A wall divides the public area with "another place for massage," said Tjong, who did not understand when asked if she was the owner of the business or an employee.
Tjong does deny that she prostituted herself.
"Police woman tell 'how much?' I say 'I don't take any money'," said Tjong who speaks English haltingly.
"No sell," she said.
On Sept. 21 at 11 a.m., detectives from the Belmont and Watertown police departments entered New Moon Body Works at 197 Belmont St. and arrested Tjong, 54, of 74 Taylor St. in Quincy.
At the same time, officers arrived at Queen’s Body Works at 468 Trapelo Rd. in Waverley Square and arrested Qin Zhou, 50, of 113 Circle Rd, Syracuse, NY.
Both women were charged with Sexual Conduct for a Fee and were arraigned in Cambridge District Court.
According to Belmont Police Lt. Richard Santangelo, Belmont Police had received complaints that the businesses were actually used for prostitution and were advertising on-line using Web sites such as Backpage.com .
"Stressed out over Hurricane Irene?
Then come see us for a relaxing Asian massage!
Two lovely well trained Asian therapists are here to make sure you leave relaxed and stress free.
We are running a grand opening special....
40 minutes for $40.00 75 minutes for $60.00 110 minutes for $90.00
Cash only for now."
Prior to each arrest an undercover officer was solicited for sex at the establishments.
Various items including laptops, records, and a credit card machine with receipts were seized at both locations.
"My husband said there was something fishy going on in there but I didn't hear anything," said Aida Sarkissian, owner of The Shoe Repair located next door to Queen's Body Works' storefront business.
Sarkissian said Qin Zhou lived upstairs from the business with a man since opening the business in August. Attempts to contact Qin Zhou were unsuccessful.
News of the arrests spread fast as business owners and employees asked for details and a cameraman from WCVB took exterior shots of Queen's Body Works.
As for Tjong, it appears that New Moon is licensed by the Commonwealth to perform massage therapy and that some customers did receive that service.
From a five star review on Yelp.com, HoggerK from Belmont wrote:
"You probably should call before you go, because my guess is that once people read this review and actually try it, this woman will be incredibly busy."
Tjong, who said she lives in Quincy and commutes to Belmont, appeared bewildered of all the attention she has received.
"Massage here," she said. "No sex."