The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 6, 2011

Massage therapist accused of sex assault

Eagle Lake man charged with three felony counts of fourth-degree sexual conduct

MANKATO — A masseur at a River Hills Mall business was charged Friday with sexually touching a customer while providing a massage.

A woman met with a Mankato police officer at about 8:15 p.m. Wednesday to report she had been sexually assaulted by a male employee at Relaxing Massage more than eight hours earlier. The officer reported the woman was visibly upset when she reported the man had touched her sexually over her bra and pants.

The officer went to the business later and arrested 31-year-old Fengwu Li of Eagle Lake after he was identified as the suspect. Li admitted to providing a massage to the woman, but told the officer he did not touch her sexually. He was charged with three felony counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

A Chinese interpreter had to be used to explain Fengwu Li’s rights to him during his bail hearing. Assistant County Attorney Chris Rovney requested a high bail, which was later set at $40,000 by District Court Judge Krista Jass.

“My biggest concern, other than the safety of the victim and the community in this case, is he’s a risk to flee,” Hanson said.

Li has only lived and worked in the area for about two months, Hanson said. Other Relaxing Massage employees also reported that its typical for employees there to move frequently.

Mike Mountain, a public defender, represented Li during the hearing. He said Li traveled to the United States with a tourist visa, then applied for resident alien status due to religious oppression.

“Mr. Li is a Christian and apparently ran into some difficulty in his home country because of that,” Mountain said.

He also said Li would be willing to surrender his Chinese passport and resident alien card if a lower bail could be set. Without those documents, Li would have less ability to leave the area than most people, Mountain said.

Amy Zhang, a woman who attended the hearing, said she was working with Li when the incident allegedly occurred. She met him while they were working together at a massage business in California more than a year ago. Li has never been accused of similar incidents during the two years he’s worked as a masseur, she said.

They work seven days a week at the mall and have a minimum of four customers per day, most of them female, Zhang said. So Li has had hundreds of customers in Mankato alone.

The massage tables are surrounded by curtains, not walls, so Zhang didn’t understand why the woman didn’t say something if she was being sexually assaulted. Zhang was working nearby with another customer. She also pointed out that both she and Li are required to repeatedly tell their customers to say something if they don’t feel comfortable.

The victim told the police officer she was shocked and afraid when Li started touching her sexually.

If Li is able to post bail, Jass said he cannot leave the state or work as a massage therapist.

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