September 18, 2014

Former Harmony Spa property ‘subject to forfeiture’

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July 18th, 2013

Observer staff report 

The former Harmony Spa property at 5649 Williston Road is “subject to forfeiture” by the federal government, according to documents filed with the Williston town clerk’s office on July 1.

Williston Police Chief Todd Shepard told the Observer on Wednesday that an agent from Homeland Security met with him on June 24 to gather more information about the business after the property’s owner, Thomas L. Booska, was cited on charges of “prohibited acts” in mid-June. Shepard said paperwork was subsequently filed “to seize the property.”

The Notice of Verified Complaint of Forfeiture was submitted to U.S. District Court in Vermont by U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin and Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Ross.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan drafted a letter to Booska in early June indicating that the building was being used for prostitution. Shepard met with Booska on June 11 and presented him with the letter, which police noted was not the first time he had been notified that the premises was being used for this type of activity. Records indicate that problems at the spa date back to at least 2004, when the business was known as Ginza Health Spa.

On June 12, information was gathered from witnesses/clients leaving Harmony Spa that they had just “received sexual services from employees and provided payment to them,” according to police. Employees at the spa were reportedly also living in the building, which is a violation of local zoning ordinances. The employees were offered “available victim services,” as officials determined that they were “likely victims of a larger scale criminal issue,” according to police.

Shepard said he has no other information at this point, other than that Booska was arraigned in court. A message left for Homeland Security seeking comment was not returned by press time.

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