WELLESLEY - The Ardmore apartment complex near Interstate 95 in Wellesley is home to many families and young professionals. But residents say that in September the new tenants in Apartment 403 began attracting a different crowd: men, arriving alone, at all hours of the day and night.
Residents in the red-brick, four-story building near the Newton line say they became convinced that their neighbors across the hall were running some sort of prostitution operation. And last week, Wellesley police said they confirmed those suspicions, busting up the town's second alleged house of prostitution in the last seven months.
"These two cases this year are the only two cases I'm aware of in the 11 years I've been here," said Sergeant Marie Cleary of the Wellesley Police Department. "It's an extremely uncommon thing to happen in Wellesley."
But law enforcement officials say the Wellesley arrests - along with other recent arrests for prostitution in Needham and Newton - are indicative of the changing nature of the crime. Prostitutes, once left to work the streets, can now post advertisements for their services online, like the operation in Wellesley allegedly did, making a traditionally urban crime increasingly suburban and harder to investigate.
"The same people who used to come into the cities and cruise around sleazy neighborhoods can now do it from the comfort of their own computer chairs," said Jack Collins, general counsel for the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. "There's been a big explosion that we've noticed in cyber-crimes of all types, and this is just one way that people are able to use their computer for other purposes."
William Eastwick and Ying Hu, who pleaded not guilty in Dedham District Court to a litany of prostitution charges, allegedly set up their operation in affluent Wellesley, leaving a previous address in Newton and moving into a carpeted, two- bedroom apartment at the Ardmore complex, according to police.
There, they had quiet neighbors, plenty of trees outside, and a spacious top-floor balcony overlooking a parking lot. And almost immediately, residents thought that something was amiss with the new tenants.
"It was hard not to pay attention," said fourth-floor neighbor Jennifer Fleming. "It was just the coming and going. At certain times, they were so busy. You'd walk out the door, taking out the trash at night, and you'd see customers."
According to the Wellesley Police Department's 34-page police report, Eastwick and Hu, both 43-year-old Brockton residents, drummed up business by posting ads for massages in the Boston Phoenix newspaper and on Craigslist.
"Rubdown by Asian girl," said one ad, according to the police report. "THIS IS A PRIVET HOME AND IS BY INVITE ONLY," said another ad, according to investigators. "POLICE OR ANY LAW OFFICERS SHALL IDENTIFY THEM SELF AT TIME OF CALL."
Plenty of customers responded, neighbors said, rolling up for brief stays in BMWs and Lexuses. Wellesley detectives, responding to complaints from residents, began conducting surveillance of the apartment, ultimately working with the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Police chronicled the arrivals and departures of customers and alleged employees, of whom there appeared to be many. Customers allegedly told investigators that it was known that with the massages you could get "something extra," and one of Eastwick and Hu's alleged employees, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, agreed to cooperate with investigators.
The woman told investigators that she was working at a brothel in Quincy when it was arranged, through a third party, that she would work for Eastwick and Hu. According to the police report, she told investigators she was instructed to perform sexual services for a fee. "Special services," Hu called them, according to the report. And when she waasked to leave after being injured during a sexual act with one violent customer, according to police, she was told she would have to stay until her replacement arrived.
The woman ultimately left, being dropped off at a bus station, according to police, and is now working at an Asian massage parlor in Maryland. But the Wellesley operation continued, police said, until investigators knocked on the door of Apartment 403 last Friday, finding condoms, cash, and lotion inside, and arresting Hu.
Hu maintains her innocence, said lawyer Steven C. Boozang. Eastwick, who was arrested Monday, could not be reached for comment.
In December, Cleary said, Eastwick tipped off police to a similar alleged operation on Linden Street in town. Cleary said she was not sure why he did that. But she said she believes that this alleged operation was not connected to others that have made news recently in the western suburbs.
"You don't anticipate that sort of thing in Wellesley," said Barbara Searle, the vice chair of the town's Board of Selectmen. "It's certainly not something that would be expected. But it's my understanding that the police worked diligently with other authorities and we got the right outcome."
Keith O'Brien can be reached at email@example.com.