BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A north Lee County jury is now deciding whether to charge a Utah man with pandering for prostitution after a business he operated in Fort Madison was rousted in 2017.
Douglas Wayne Fenlaw, 52, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, is being charged with pandering for prostitution out of the former Avenue L Day Spa in Fort Madison. He’s represented by Curt Dial of Keokuk.
Fenlaw testified on Wednesday on his own behalf as to the financial structure of the Day Spa and his role in the operations.
Fenlaw told the jury that he and Yu Hong, who ran the spa on a daily basis under the name “Lisa”, had a business and personal relationship and called each other husband and wife.
Under questioning from Dial, Fenlaw testified that he maintained the business functions of the spa in exchange for $1,500 a month to be used for the expenses such as the lease, utilities, supplies, and advertising for the establishment. However, Fenlaw said he was unaware of any pay-for-sex activities going on at the spa.
Fenlaw said he was specific that no prostitution or sexual activity was to take place at the spa when he set up the business for Hong. The two met when Fenlaw got a massage from Hong in Waterloo while with a friend. Hong was also charged with prostitution in Mason City where a parlor called Asian Tuina was raided in February of this year. He also testified that he feared for Hong’s safety if activities there turned sexual in nature.
“I showed her where the train station was in Fort Madison so that if she ever needed to get to Chicago this is where she would get her ticket and get on the train. I also told her, ‘If you or your sister ever break the law and I catch you, I’ll have to put you on the train to Chicago.” Fenlaw said in court.
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On Tuesday, the state tried to get testimony regarding advertising that Fenlaw had placed on BackPage.com, a site known for paid advertisements for prostitution and trafficking. He also testified that he advertised on Craig’s List and Google.
Fenlaw admitted to advertising on the site because he said it’s a legitimate site for those looking for body rubs and massages.
Dial produced seven exhibits that showed emails to the Day Spa asking for what are called “happy endings”, sex acts, and nudity. Fenlaw testified through reading the responses he said he prepared, that he replied to those emails saying there are no paid sex activities available at the spa.
Rachel Zimmerman-Smith, from the Johnson County Attorney’s office, asked Fenlaw if he ever told those people sending the emails not to come to the spa. The Johnson County attorney’s office is handling the case due to a conflict with the Lee County Attorney’s office.
“Did you ever tell any of those people not to come to Fort Madison?” Zimmerman-Smith asked.
“I did not,” Fenlaw said after repeatedly telling Zimmerman-Smith that he told them all there would be no sexual conduct. The two were stopped by the court reporter multiple times during the exchange after several instances of interrupting each other. At one point, District Associate Judge Ty Rogers had to intervene.
In a redirect, Dial let Fenlaw finish his statement.
“I said they couldn’t come in for anything illegal,” Fenlaw told the jury.
Dial also called Joseph McAllister to testify that he took Fenlaw to the Waterloo spa after locating the spa on BackPage.com. McAllister testified that the two got massages but no sexual activity took place.
During closing remarks, the state said that Fenlaw set the spa up to operate very similar to how illegal spas are set up and did everything an owner would do if they didn’t want to get caught – using cash only pricing, paying leases in cash, and advertising in places like BackPage.
Dial contended the state hadn’t proven that any sexual activities took place at the spa and they hadn’t cleared the hurdle of showing that Fenlaw would have had any knowledge of activity, specifically citing testimony that on multiple occasions he communicated with Hong and potential clients that no sexual or illegal acts would take place at the spa.
The jury began deliberations at about 3:40 p.m. and stopped at 5 p.m. and will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Fenlaw is facing a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a possible $7,500 fine.
Pandering is defined in Iowa as a person who persuades, arranges, coerces, or otherwise causes another, not a minor, to become a prostitute or to return to the practice of prostitution after having abandoned it, or keeps or maintains any premises for the purposes of prostitution, or takes a share in the income from such premises knowing the character and content of such income, commits a class “D” felony.
A search of Utah public documents revealed Fenlaw has had two health and healing companies, the first of which is Phoenix Natural Healthcare, LLC out of Saratoga Springs, Utah and the other was Healing Humanity International, registered in Blanding, Utah. The Phoenix Natural Healthcare license with the Utah Department of Commerce expired on Feb. 23, 2017. The license for Healing Humanity International expired in 2002, also in Utah, after the renewal was not filed. He also currently has active licenses in Utah for Superior Pilots, LLC., a domestic pilot car service.