Landlord accused of knowingly renting same building to be used for both church services and prostitution services at the same time!

A church in the city of Wheaton, Illinois USA has filed a lawsuit against its landlord after a second employee was arrested for offering prostitution services in the same building.

Maranatha Christian Church recently filed suit in DuPage County asking a judge to void its lease at 616 Childs St. and compel the property manager to refund the rent it paid since late 2010 when the house of worship opened. The spa is a tenant in the same one-story building near the city's downtown.

Parishioners complained that they could hear "sexual noises coming from the massage parlor in the same building before and after services on the weekend," according to the lawsuit.

Attorney Mark Baiocchi, who represents the church, said the property manager ignored pleas to evict the massage establishment which is accused of engaging in prostitution services at the same time church service is going on in the same building.  The church decided to move out in January after the second prostitution arrest of a spa employee weeks earlier in the same building

The church's lease doesn't expire until Oct. 31, 2016. In the lawsuit, they are asking the landlord to refund their money.

The suit, filed against property manager Tatiana Savenok and 616 Childs Property, states she "knowingly or with reckless disregard" leased a portion of the 4,600-square-foot building for "the operation of an unlicensed massage parlor which performs prostitution services."

"They are a victim," Baiocchi said of the church. "They're trying to grow and bring in parishioners while dealing with a landlord with poor judgment."

The church is asking a judge to find the spa is a public nuisance and in violation of a state law restricting adult entertainment businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of a place of worship.

The spa is not identified by name in the church's complaint. A neon sign in its window simply says "spa," but business cards in the building entry list it as Therapeutical Massage.

A review of online adult-oriented advertisements of massage services connected to the address showed it has operated under various names over the years. Ads promoting "beautiful and tender" girls who give patrons massages, as well as table showers and body scrubs, helped spark the most recent undercover police sting.

Police said Xuhong Castro was living and working in the spa Oct. 29 when she agreed to fondle an undercover officer for an extra $60 during a massage. Castro, 36, was convicted of misdemeanor prostitution May 18 and ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and pay a $500 fine, court records showed.

Castro is identified as the spa operator in the church's complaint as well as by city officials in a separate lawsuit. But, during a recent interview at the spa, she told the Tribune she is only an employee.

Castro however, said she is from China and hasn't been in the country long. She blamed her arrest on a misunderstanding because of her language barrier.

"It's not fair. It's not true," she said. "I didn't do prostitution."

Castro's arrest marked the second time a spa employee in the Wheaton building was accused of prostitution since the church became a tenant. Tingting Wang, 31, was convicted of the misdemeanor after a March 2012 arrest while employed at the massage parlor, then called Oriental Spa, according to court records. The city revoked the spa's massage license two weeks after the arrest.

In a later telephone interview, another woman who identified herself as the owner of the unlicensed business but declined to be named publicly also denied knowledge of illegal activity. She said her rent is $3,450 a month but business is dead because word has spread that it is a "troubled place."

The owner said the lease ends Nov. 30, but she is trying to get out of it early.

Savenok, the property manager, said she hasn't been served the church's lawsuit yet. She questioned if parishioners could really hear "sexual noises" through soundproof walls and asked why church leaders signed a second multiyear lease if they were concerned.

Savenok said she runs criminal background checks on prospective tenants before entering into a lease agreement and she has limited access and inspection rights afterward.

"What else can I do?" she asked. "I have no idea what they're doing."

"I am not responsible for any wrongdoing for tenants," Savenok continued. "If the city finds something wrong they should shut it down."

Savenok said the massage parlor was a tenant before Maranatha Christian Church moved in, but, according to Baiocchi, church officials believed it to be a nail salon and nothing more. The church filed a lawsuit seeking a judge's intervention three months after Wheaton's complaint.

Savenok has faced various legal complaints over the years involving her rental properties, but the only other one concerning a massage parlor was in Oakbrook Terrace in April 2011 when she paid a fine and was placed on court supervision for failing to receive a certificate of occupancy.

Savenok said she had problems with two of the five massage parlors that have been tenants at her various properties.

"I cannot guess who is honest and who is doing this and who is doing that," she said.

Source: Chicagotribune

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