When new customers arrived at Avant Gentlemen's Spa in west Omaha, they weren't allowed to go straight to the main event, as it were.
Instead, prosecutors said, they had to prove themselves before they could partake in a “table shower” or other sexual acts performed by the attendants.
They were required “to engage in some form of sexual conduct'' before they could receive sex acts from the workers, according to a federal indictment.
Four people, including spa owner William R. Knox of Omaha, were indicted Wednesday on charges of operating an interstate prostitution ring disguised as a legitimate business in Omaha.
The spa “was, in fact, a front for prostitution, as (Knox) well knew,” the indictment stated. “Nearly all the customers were male, and all the ‘attendants' who provided ‘sessions' were female. The majority of customers received sex acts from the workers, rather than legitimate spa services, in exchange for money.”
The indictment also accuses Knox of having sex for pay with employees.
The business was at times also called Advantage Spa & Body Works, Ninety Third Street Spa and NTS Spa Ltd. Knox had an ongoing client base of more than 1,000 people who frequented the spa over a 15-year period.
The indictment is not clear on how much the workers charged for sex acts, but each client was expected to pay a tip of $50 to $100 typically. Customers also were charged a “door fee'' or “session fee'' based on the length of the session.
Other spas named in the indictment operated on 72nd Street south of Dodge Street, near 93rd and Maple Streets and 87th Street and West Center Road.
Jan Sharp, chief criminal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Nebraska, said he didn't know whether the spas have shut down. Some legitimate services were provided at the spas as well as commercial sex.
The indictment charges Knox, 63, with operating or overseeing the Omaha prostitution businesses off and on for about 14 years. He also was charged with money laundering.
Knox pleaded no contest to a state prostitution charge in 1996.
The indictment also charged three others:
» Tammy L. Schuck, 41, of Omaha, accused of operating a spa business under a sublease with Knox, then opening and operating two other prostitution spas.
Shuck pleaded guilty in 2008 to a charge of soliciting prostitution after she agreed to perform a sex act on an undercover police officer.
» Tabatha N. Ashburn, 22, of Junction City, Kan., is accused of managing and operating the spas.
» Christopher J. Tierney, 31, of Omaha allegedly set up a website for the spas and created electronic records.
No prostitutes or customers were charged in the indictment.
Attempts to reach the defendants were unsuccessful.
All four face federal charges of using computers, the Internet and cellphones to promote prostitution and to entice women to work in Omaha in the sex trade.
They also are accused of luring patrons from Iowa and other states to the businesses.
Massage therapists and businesses that employ them are supposed to register with the Nebraska Department of Human Services, but online records indicate that Knox did not do so.
The spas also were not registered with the secretary of state, which licenses businesses.
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