OGDEN — Three women are suing a massage business, an unlicensed massage therapist and the owners and operators of Newgate Mall over a series of sexual assaults that occurred during the summer of 2016.
Hongwei Yang is serving a prison term of up to five years after pleading no contest to sexually abusing five women during their appointments at Better Massage. Yang, as well as the owner of Better Massage and several companies involved in the mall, are defendants in a negligence suit in 2nd District Court.
In an amended complaint filed July 27, attorneys for the three victims said at least five women were assaulted by Yang, who was not licensed to perform massages. The suit alleges owners and operators of the mall failed to protect customers from the depredations and that the mall security company did not act after two of the women reported the assaults against them.
Yang, 48, was arrested after an investigation by Ogden police. He pleaded no contest to one count of attempted forcible sexual abuse and four counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor.
He is serving his time in the Kane County Jail. Prosecutors recommended Yang, not a U.S. citizen, be deported after he is released from custody.
The three plaintiffs were identified by their initials in the suit. The Standard-Examiner does not usually identify victims of sexual crimes.
A woman said she went in for a massage on July 19, 2016, and was told by Yang to disrobe completely. She left some clothing on, and Yang forcibly removed some of the clothing and sexually assaulted her, the woman reported.
Yang was charged with 14 counts for incidents from July 19 to Aug. 7. Most charges were dropped as part of a plea bargain.
Better Massage still has an active corporate registration with the state but it is no longer listed as a Newgate Mall tenant. Better Massage's owner, Xinjun Wei — also a defendant in the suit — is licensed with the state as a massage therapist.
"The mall’s owners, operators, and security were aware of at least some of the allegations against Yang well before he was arrested, but took no steps whatsoever to protect their customers or to prevent Yang’s free access to his victims," the suit said.
Efforts to contact Newgate's general manager and the chairman of the mall's operator, The Woodmont Company of Fort Worth, Texas, were not immediately successful.
A spokeswoman for Professional Security Consultants of Los Angeles, the mall's security provider, referred questions to the mall office.
Other corporate defendants are GGP Inc. and Time Equities Inc. Mall ownership changed from GGP to TEI during the summer of 2016.