A sting at a Chanhassen massage business revealed the shop was a front for prostitution, Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson said Wednesday evening.

The owner of the Valora Massage business is a 37-year-old Eden Prairie woman whose home was also searched, where incriminating evidence turned up as well, Olson said.

Two female workers, a 35-year-old from Savage and a 31-year-old from Richfield, were issued citations for misdemeanor prostitution offenses and released. Authorities said they were caught semi-clothed, with at least one nude male customer, he said. Another seminude woman, the business owner, was jailed.

No male customers were immediately cited, but the investigation continues into a type of crime that's been fairly rare so far in Chanhassen, Olson said.

The sting came as the city of Chanhassen has been grappling with the creation of a new ordinance that would regulate massage businesses by setting up safeguards that would keep prostitution out of the city — while at the same time are not being onerous to legitimate massage services.

It's a problem that many communities are facing in an era when social media and online publications serve as marketing tools for the sex trade, the sheriff said. Valora had been advertising "erotic" massage services by using online classified ads on websites including Backpage.com, Adultsearch.com and Craigslist.

The business, which is in the 7900 block of Stone Creek Drive, had women offering sexual services, in addition to massage services, for a "$40-$60 tip," Olson said.

After receiving complaints from residents, an undercover deputy, posing as a massage customer, had booked a massage appointment Tuesday.

During the massage, one of the suspects offered to provide sexual services in exchange for money, the deputy reported. Shortly after that, sheriff's deputies used a warrant to search the business.

The deputies found two women workers and two men in adjacent massage rooms, in addition to the room occupied by the undercover deputy and the other suspect.

Each of the women allegedly confessed to engaging in prostitution.

The owner was being held in the Carver County jail pending formal charges from the Carver County Attorney's Office.

"Prostitution is not a victimless crime," Olson said. "Most sex workers are vulnerable and poor and duped into a life of dependency and abuse."

Joy Powell • 612-673-7750