DUMFRIES, Va. - Escape Day Spa is fighting back after a customer accused them of human trafficking and commercial sex. The spa is suing that customer for $2 million in a defamation suit.
In an emotional interview with FOX 5, the spa's owner said she hopes customers will return.
"When this first happened back in November, I didn't want to come back to work," said Jacqueline Nguyen. "But then I saw their loyalty to us."
She broke down in tears after she asked us to pause the interview.
"We don't know what they think of us," she said. "Do they think we are prostitutes? We don't know, but our nail techs have been there, have been strong because they know we have done nothing wrong."
Nguyen is suing Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco for reckless defamatory statements that damaged business at the business.
"Everything that she has accused us of is false -- the human trafficking, the commercial sex -- there is no evidence of that," said Nguyen. "Even through the holiday season was when we saw the biggest decline in sales and in services. So we would like to gain back our customers' trust, their loyalty and just to get our name back."
Back in November, Mehlman-Orozco made a slew of accusations against the salon.
"A young man came in - I later spoke with him - he said he was a Marine and he asked for a massage and my ears perked up because I never knew that location provided massages," said Mehlman-Orozco in a November 2015 interview with FOX 5. "So I ended up doing some online research and I found nearly two years' worth of reviews from men claiming to have received sexual services at my nail salon."
She also said she alerted the spa's manager.
"I asked him if he was aware that a number of nail salons have been accused of human trafficking, bringing girls in on visas and having them work those visa fees off for low or no money, sometimes providing elicit services, and his blanket response was that those women were lying," said Mehlman-Orozco.
On Thursday night, Mehlman-Orozco said she has not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on the allegations, but she did give FOX 5 a general statement that reads:
"I have not received or seen any lawsuit, so I am not at liberty to discuss the specifics. However, I find it interesting the Escape Day Spa is not to my knowledge suing the detective who told me she had been investigating their establishment for some time, they are not suing Fox 5 News that aired the story and took liberties with my discussions, nor are they suing the men on RubMaps.com who claimed to have received erotic services from their staff. They are apparently only suing me, a single mother of four and passionate anti trafficking criminologist, who was only trying to do the right thing."
"Also, Tisha, I wanted to add that in my opinion, it's very sad that a criminologist expressing her legitimate concerns can result in a threat financial decimation, with a $2,000,000 lawsuit. While elsewhere, convicted human traffickers across the United States rarely face even a fraction of that financial penalty or restitution fees for victims (if any). It is incredulous that this is happening, all because I tried to do the right thing."
"This is our family's livelihood and for her to ruin our reputation in this community, this is who we serve," said Nguyen.
The lawsuit was filed in Prince William County Circuit Court.
Police said they were unable to corroborate any of the allegations in the complaint and have received no other reports that would indicate that the alleged activity was continuing.