April 17th, 2014
By Stephanie Choate
The landlord of the Williston massage parlor that closed last summer after allegations of prostitution has settled a forfeiture claim with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Instead of forfeiting the Williston property where Harmony Spa was located, owner Thomas Booska agreed to pay $100,000 to the federal government. According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office sent out on Friday, Booska intends to sell the property to “individuals who have previously run a hair and nail salon in Colchester.”
“In a complaint filed on June 28, 2013, the United States alleged that the Williston property owned by Thomas Booska, age 68, of Burlington, Vermont, was forfeitable to the government because it was used to house individuals who were induced or encouraged to come to Vermont from out of state for purposes of engaging in prostitution or other commercial sex acts,” according to the press release. “While admitting that he is the owner of the Williston property and that Harmony Spa had been located at the Williston property, Booska generally denied the allegations of the complaint.”
The property has a history of problems surrounding alleged prostitution.
The complaint alleges that in May 2011, law enforcement officials told Booska that they had received reports of “sex acts taking place at the Harmony Spa,” according to the press release. Booska was also informed that if the acts continued, the property would be subject to forfeiture.
“The complaint further alleged that despite this warning, in the Fall of 2012 and thereafter, Booska was providing housing and transportation to Asian females, who he knew had traveled from out of state to Vermont with the intent of engaging in sexual acts for pay as part of their services at Harmony Spa,” the press release states.
On June 12, 2013, police gathered information from 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.
Booska was cited on charges of “prohibited acts” in mid-June.
A 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 last July.
Problems at the spa date back to at least 2004, when it was known as Ginza Health Spa. In 2006, a woman was arrested at the property, by then known as Harmony Spa, after she offered sexual services to a man who was an undercover Williston Police officer.