Today the Appeals Court upheld the conviction of a defendant charged with operating brothels in North Reading, Quincy, and Boston.

According to the court’s summary of the facts, police stopped the defendant in North Reading in 2017 when he made an illegal U-turn outside an apartment that he leased.

The defendant told officers that he lived in Gloucester but rented the apartment in North Reading.  He was there to check the mail and to dispose of some trash.

At some point after this conversation, police searched a trash bag that the defendant discarded. 

The officers opened the trash bag and found used condoms, condom packaging with the brand name “Kimono,” and small cards explaining “How to use a condom” in multiple languages.

This prompted the police to begin an investigation that lasted for three months.  During that time, they connected the defendant to a number of massage parlors that were advertised on

Men leaving these establishments were questioned by police and many of them confessed that

Though the advertisements were for massage services, they understood and expected that they would receive sexual services.

Ultimately, police got a warrant allowing them to search the various apartments as well as the defendant’s Gloucester home.   

In each of the apartment locations, officers found similar scenes: sparse furnishings, mattresses on the floor, supplies of Kimono-brand condoms and paper towels, and cash.

A search of the defendant’s cell phone disclosed

a video of two women in bathrobes speaking to each other in Chinese that was recorded near one of the Quincy apartments, and a video of an Asian woman in lingerie that was recorded near the Boston apartment.

In addition to these items, police found incriminating bank statements and documents establishing the defendant’s leases on the properties under surveillance.

At trial, prosecutors produced

evidence that those advertisements [on] included photographs of scantily clad or topless young Asian women, and offered “NURU [m]assage,” “SHOWER TOGETHER,” “KISSING [g]irlfriend package,” “[s]exy [l]ingerie,” and “[e]verything . . . naked.”

Regarding this evidence, the Appeals Court noted that

A rational person viewing the advertisements would infer that services other than ordinary massage were being offered.

On appeal, the defendant argued, in part, that the evidence against him was insufficient for two reasons.  First, it did not establish that he knew of the brothel business.  Second, even if he knew of the illicit business, he derived no financial advantage from it.

The Appeals Court rejected these arguments, stating that

The evidence in the present case, however, rebuts the defendant’s claim that he was unaware of commercial sexual activity within the apartments or that he was not involved in its support. The defendant’s activities, both on Backpage and at the apartments, along with the evidence found in the defendant’s possession at his home and on his cell phone, were more than sufficient for a reasonable jury to infer that the defendant was both aware of and actively engaged in the illegal sexual services operation in concert with [the co-defendant].