The Superior City Council is considering revoking a business license after the owners were charged with sex trafficking and racketeering in St. Louis County.
The city of Superior issued a massage therapy business license application to Matthew Shykes for Superior Soothing Massage on or about Nov. 8, according to the complaint filed with the Council by City Attorney Frog Prell and Police Chief Nicholas Alexander.
Superior Soothing Massage was one of three massage therapy businesses operated by Matthew Shykes, 60, and his wife, Shuangyan Yang, 49, of Hermantown.
The couple was charged with sex trafficking and racketeering March 25 in Sixth Judicial District Court in St. Louis County.
The charges accuse Yang and Shykes of recruiting women from California to provide sexual services to clients at their massage parlors, Shuangyan's Spa, 2521 Miller Trunk Highway, Duluth; Better Massage, 2304 Mountain Shadow Drive, Duluth; and Superior Soothing Massage, 1225 Tower Ave.
Duluth Police Department investigators became aware of advertisements for Better Massage on backpage.com in late 2017, and reviews for that and Shuangyan's Spa and Better Massage on a website in which the name was withheld, and launched an investigation into the businesses, according to the criminal complaint against Shykes.
Superior police were notified by the Duluth Police Department in March about the ongoing investigation.
Superior police officers questioned customers leaving the Tower Avenue business on March 20. According to the complaint filed with the Council, one customer admitted to receiving a sexual act in exchange for money; another said he didn't engage in a sexual act, but felt he could have if he wanted.
Wisconsin Administrative Code prohibits sexual contact with a client in a massage therapy business, and city ordinance provides that a massage therapy license may be revoked for a violation of the law.
Search warrants were executed March 21 in Duluth and Superior in a coordinated effort, and recovered a "plethora of evidence related to the purpose, function and profit of the enterprise" Shykes and Yang engaged in.
The complaint before the Council accuses Shykes of a pattern of criminal activity between Wisconsin and Minnesota, including sex trafficking, promotion of prostitution and concealing criminal proceeds, and recommends revocation of Superior Soothing Massage's business license as a "threat to the public health, safety and welfare sufficient to justify revocation."
The Council considers the revocation when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, in Room 201 of the Government Center.