Two defendants in federal massage parlor case appear in court

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — On Thursday, a woman charged with six felonies tied to a prostitution-money laundering scheme was edging toward being detained rather being released before her trial.

Ma Li Vanskike, 67, finally agreed to abide by the pre-trial conditions that would allow her to remain free before she goes to trial.

Vanskike, who was at an initial appearance in U.S. District Court, is one of five defendants named in the investigation of massage parlors in Kansas that were fronts for prostitution operations, U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Sebelius said in court.

Vanskike, who cried at times, objected to wearing a GPS device on her leg to track her whereabouts as a condition of being released from federal custody.

Vanskike is from Shanghai, China, completed high school in China and became a naturalized American citizen. To aid her, an interpreter translated English into the Mandarin.

Vanskike appeared frustrated at times. She repeatedly said she had done nothing wrong and questioned why she had to wear the location-monitoring device.

“I want to go to Hong Kong!” she blurted out at one point. Sebelius told her she couldn’t go to Hong Kong.

“I don’t have freedom,” Vanskike said.

“That true you don’t,” Sebelius said, adding conditions of release were part of a criminal case.

Vanskike turned to her husband in the gallery to ask him whether she should sign the document specifying the conditions of her release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Skp Jacobsthen stepped to the lectern to say the prosecution would seek to detain Vanskike if she didn’t sign the document.

“I will sign, but I am against it,” Vanskike said.

The judge told her that the court always places some conditions on someone who will be released from custody. Vanskike is charged with one count of interstate racketeering and five counts of money laundering, a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.

Vanskike, operator of the ABC Massage, formerly the Naima Therapy in Lawrence, laundered more than $1 million in revenues over five years at Harrah’s Casino in North Kansas City, Mo., a federal indictment alleges.

She tearfully signed the document and was released from detention with conditions.

A second defendant, Elmo Michael Mills, 61, also was released from custody with conditions. They didn’t include wearing a GPS device.

Mills, 61, is charged with two counts of conspiracy, two counts of interstate racketeering and four counts of money laundering, McAllister said.

The indictment alleged Mills transported female sex workers from an airport to massage parlors and assisted his co-defendant in laundering cash proceeds of prostitution, including laundering some money through casinos in Kansas.

Mills worked with co-defendant Lian Hua Li, 55, who operated Sunflower Massage (formerly Jasmine Massage) in Topeka and S-Therapy in Salina, McAllister said.

Li hasn’t been arrested, a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Each defendant can’t travel outside Kansas although Vanskike can also travel in metropolitan Kansas City. Both are to return to court on July 30 for a pre-trial hearing.

Two other defendants, Weiling Nielsen, 53, and Erik Nielsen, age not given, were arrested and appeared in federal court on Tuesday in San Francisco, a statement issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The Nielsens are charged with two counts of conspiracy, two counts of bank fraud, five counts of money laundering, and one count of racketeering.

A federal indictment alleges the Nielsens bought and sold California real estate worth millions of dollars while falsely representing themselves to lenders as restaurant managers in Lawrence.

The Nielsens were operators of Jasmine Massage in Topeka and Naima Asian Massage and Serenity Health Spa, both in Lawrence, an indictment said.

The Nielsens are scheduled to appear in federal court in Topeka on June 19.