In early-to-mid-March 2019, photographs of President Donald Trump and members of his family posing with Li Yang, a political donor and spa entrepreneur, circulated on social media. The images were used to link the Trumps with a sting operation in Florida.
Yang, who posted a widely seen selfie taken at Trump’s 2019 Super Bowl party to her Facebook account, once owned what is now the Orchids of Asia massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was one of 25 men arrested in February 2019, accused of soliciting sex there in a sweeping, human-trafficking sting that targeted that site and others.
Yang no longer owns the establishment in which police say Kraft was caught on camera paying for sex. She has not been charged with a crime.
Nevertheless, the images of Yang, Trump and members of his family were picked up and used to create an inaccurate meme claiming she is the spa’s owner, which was shared with the nearly 8 million followers on the Facebook page belonging to Occupy Democrats on 8 March 2019.
Although the Occupy Democrats Facebook page sarcastically discourages followers to share the meme, its administrators also added a “correction” in the post above the image:
Yang was swept into the lurid story after images of her with Trump and his family members surfaced on her Facebook page, which, as the Miami Herald reported, “raised questions about who can gain access to the president at his resorts and other private businesses, as well at official venues like fundraisers.”
Some news stories linked Yang to the day spa raided by police by describing her as the “founder,” although when the site changed ownership in 2012, its name also changed.
Yang sold the business, which at the time was called the Tokyo Day Spa, to Hua Zhang, who changed the name of the establishment to Orchids of Asia upon incorporation in 2012, according to Florida state business records. Zhang, 58, has been charged with prostitution-related counts and has pleaded not guilty. As the Associated Press reported:
Yang, who goes by Cindy, wasn’t charged in the multiagency anti-human trafficking operation that resulted in 25 arrests and shut down 10 Asian day spas in south Florida. None of the spas are registered to Yang or her family. She sold the Jupiter spa around 2013 to Hua Zhang, who has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and running a house of prostitution.
Yang’s family still owns several south Florida spas. The family’s Tokyo Day Spa branches have attracted the attention of at least two police agencies, the Herald reported.
Yang told the Herald, which published the photo of her with Trump on Friday (March 8), that she and her family haven’t broken the law. She said she is out of the business, would soon be relocating to Washington and didn’t want any negative news media attention.
Occupy Democrats (OD) Co-Founder Omar Rivero told us in an email he felt he had no choice but to leave the meme live with the correction added to the post. Once an image is posted on Facebook, it can’t be replaced or edited. If the image were to continue to circulate with the error even after after OD had deleted it from their page, and if Facebook were to flag the image as false, the deletion would result in a penalty for the page.
“It’s a really weird thing that doesn’t make sense to me either,” he explained. “Normally I would just delete it but I can’t risk another hit to our reach [due to a Facebook penalty] over a minor mistake.”
Blaskey, Sarah, et al. “Trump Cheered Patriots to Super Bowl Victory With Founder of Spa Where Kraft Was Busted.”
Miami Herald. 8 March 2019.
Greenlee, Will. “Details in Spa Sex, Human Trafficking Released; Neighbor Says Case ‘Like a Movie.'”
Treasury Coast Newspapers. 20 February 2019.
Winter, Tom, and Kesslen, Ben. “Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Charged With Soliciting Prostitution.”
NBC News. 22 February 2019.
Nehamas, Nicole, et al. “Massage Parlor Magnate Helped Steer Chinese to Trump NYC Fundraiser, Attendee Says.”
Miami Herald. 9 March 2019.
Associated Press. “Report: Spa Founder Attended Trump’s Super Bowl Party.”
8 March 2019.