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The Avalon Mosaic apartments in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Three men have been arrested for coercing women into sex work at “high-end” brothels in Massachusetts and Virginia, the Department of Justice announced yesterday (Wednesday).

Locations used for the brothels include units in Hanover Tysons and Avalon Mosaic, apartment buildings in Tysons and Merrifield, according to a court affidavit by a Department of Homeland Security special agent.

Federal prosecutors have charged Massachusetts residents Han Lee and Junmyung Lee as well as California resident James Lee “with conspiracy to coerce and entice to travel to engage in illegal sexual activity,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Massachusetts said in a press release.

According to the DOJ, since at least July 2020, the men enticed primarily Asian women to travel to and work in the brothels, whose clients included “politicians, high tech and pharmaceutical executives, doctors, military officers, government contractors that possess security clearances, professors, lawyers, scientists and accountants.”

Specifically, the defendants allegedly rented high-end apartment complexes as brothel locations, which they furnished and regularly maintained. The monthly rent for the brothel locations were as high as $3,664. It is further alleged that the defendants coordinated the women’s airline travel and transportation and permitted women to stay overnight in the brothel locations so they did not have to find lodging elsewhere, therefore enticing women to participate in their prostitution network.

The locations in Tysons and Merrifield were advertised on a website claiming to be for nude photography models, but the DHS agent says he believes the ads are a “front” for commercial escort or prostitution services.

“Approximately twenty (20) sex buyers were interviewed in connection with this multi-yearlong investigation,” the agent said in the affidavit.

Clients were charged anywhere from $350 up to $600 per hour that they paid in cash, the DOJ says. Prosecutors allege that the defendants concealed “hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash” from the prostitution ring through deposits in their personal bank accounts and “peer-to-peer transfers.”

“Additionally, it is alleged that the defendants regularly used hundreds of thousands of dollars of the cash proceeds from the prostitution business to purchase money orders (in values under an amount that would trigger reporting and identification requirements) to conceal the source of the funds,” the press release said. “These money orders were then used to pay for rent and utilities at brothel locations in Massachusetts and Virginia.”

The defendants could face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines of up to $250,000 under the sex trafficking charges, according to the DOJ.

Han Lee and Junmyung Lee appeared in a federal court in Boston yesterday after getting arrested that morning, while James Lee was arrested in California and “will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The landscaping outside 2491 helped land it the no. 1 spot on Northern Virginia Magazine’s 2023 50 Best Restaurants list (file photo)

The best place to eat in Northern Virginia right now is an upscale restaurant tucked away in an office building outside Merrifield that also houses the U.S. headquarters of defense contractor BAE Systems.

At least that’s the designation bestowed upon 2941 by Northern Virginia Magazine’s food critics, whose ranking of the 50 best restaurants in the region for 2023 hit newsstands on Friday (Oct. 27) as part of its November issue.

While the full list can only be found in print, reviews for the top 10 restaurants are online, led by 2941. Located at 2941 Fairview Park Drive, the restaurant impressed the magazine’s critics with the artistry of both its cuisine and setting, which features landscaping, a koi pond and a view of an artificial lake.

“Inside the soaring space, a talented contemporary American kitchen staff transforms top-flight ingredients into culinary art,” the review said, highlighting a five-course tasting menu curated by Executive Chef Bertrand Chemel as well as a la carte dishes like a “grilled rib-eye with crisped potatoes.”

Self-described on its website as “one of the most celebrated restaurants in the metropolitan area,” 2941 previously topped Northern Virginia Magazine’s annual rankings in 2021 and came in second last year. It has also been recognized in the past by Washingtonian, Eater DC and the Washington Post.

“We’re ecstatic to share that we’ve been ranked as the #1 restaurant in Northern Virginia!” the restaurant said in a Facebook post. “This recognition wouldn’t be possible without our incredible team and the support of our loyal customers. Thank you for making…us the best in the region.”

2941 isn’t the only Fairfax County restaurant to place in the top 10. It was joined by Nostos in Tysons (No. 6), L’Auberge Chez François in Great Falls (No. 8), Trummer’s in Clifton (No. 9) and Trio Grill in Merrifield proper (No. 10).

Praised for proving that there’s “much more to Greek cuisine” than gyros, Nostos (8100 Boone Blvd) was among Washingtonian’s “very best restaurants” in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Its owners are behind Vienna’s incoming Yellow Diner, which is expected to open at 501 Maple Avenue West early next year.

L’Auberge Chez François has been operating at 332 Springvale Road since 1976, when it moved from its original home in D.C. Also recently lauded by Washingtonian, the French establishment is a “captivating destination for celebrating life’s special moments” with “masterful cuisine” and “exquisite service,” according to Northern Virginia Magazine.

Trummer’s (7134 Main Street) originally opened as a fine dining restaurant in 2009, but it has been steadily evolving into a more casual American bistro, dropping the “on Main” portion of its name in 2019. Northern Virginia Magazine highlights its “skillful” blending of “Austrian and regional American traditions.”

Near the Mosaic District at 8100 Route 29, Trio Grill comes from Metropolitan Hospitality Group, which is also behind Open Road, Circa and El Bebe. When it opened a decade ago, Northern Virginia Magazine dinged the eatery for not taking more risks with its menu, but it now says Trio Grill offers “a night of fine food and camaraderie.”

Falls Church was also represented with Ellie Bird at No. 5 and the Vietnamese restaurant NUE coming in seventh. Both restaurants opened earlier this year in the city’s new Founders Row development on West and Broad streets.

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Unique Thrift Store in Merrifield (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A D.C. man was arrested at Unique in Merrifield yesterday (Monday) for allegedly peeping at a woman in the thrift shop’s restroom.

Officers were called to the store at 2956 Gallows Road around 5:30 p.m. for a report of a suspicious person, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

“The officers learned Anderson had followed a woman into a restroom and pushed open her door while she was inside the stall,” the FCPD said in a news release today. “The victim yelled for the suspect to leave, and the suspect left the restroom but remained at the entrance of the store.”

The 33-year-old man was arrested “without incident,” police said. He has been charged with peeping and public intoxication.

According to the FCPD, there were outstanding warrants for the man, who is in custody at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond. Court records show he was arrested for indecent exposure on Feb. 10, but the misdemeanor charge was dropped.

“Based on information from store employees, officers believe there may be additional victims,” the FCPD said.

The department advises anyone with potential information about this case or previous incidents to contact its detective at 703-556-7750. Anonymous tips are also accepted through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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Prosperity Avenue outside a Dunn Loring Metro station parking lot (via Google Maps)

Fairfax County is designing a new layout for Prosperity Avenue near the Dunn Loring Metro station.

The new configuration will reduce the roadway from four to two lanes by adding a road diet and protected bicycle lanes between Gallows Road and Prosperity Metro Plaza, the two-building office center whose tenants include U.S. Customs and Immigration Services’ D.C. field office.

The project will also convert existing on-street bicycle lanes that start to the west and continue until Hilltop Road into protected bike lanes.

Design funding will come from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), whose Transportation Planning Board awarded $80,000 to the project last week as part of its Transit Within Reach program.

COG is “excited” about the county’s proposed improvements to Prosperity Avenue, which currently has a “very wide” design that “encourages drivers to speed and discourages people from walking and biking,” according to John Swanson, the principal transportation planner for the regional nonprofit.

The affected section of Prosperity Avenue has a 35 mph speed limit. A 19-year-old man from Chantilly was killed in a crash on the road last December, but that occurred to the south between Route 29 and Arlington Blvd.

“This part of Fairfax is undergoing a lot of change and the county is really committed to making the Dunn Loring station the center of a vibrant, walkable community,” Swanson said. “…This kind of project will make a real difference at the local level and will serve as a model for the region.”

The idea for the Prosperity Avenue safety project emerged out of discussions that started in April between representatives of businesses along the roadway and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik’s office.

Since then, the district office has been working with county and state transportation staff to develop their proposal.

“I am delighted to see that this project design was approved for funding!” Palchik said in a statement. “After hearing from local businesses about safety concerns for their staff and visitors, my office worked diligently with FCDOT and VDOT on a proposal for a road diet for Prosperity Avenue. This design work will help improve safety for our pedestrians, especially for staff and community members visiting the USCIS offices or attending naturalization ceremonies.”

The Transit Within Reach funds will cover the project design up to 30% completion, according to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. That will encompass the bicycle lanes from west of the Metro station to Hilltop Avenue, which is expected to be completed around the end of 2024.

The COG funding will also give the county an estimate for how much it’ll cost to implement the project.

“Once complete, FCDOT will identify funding to complete the design and construct the project,” a department spokesperson said.

Launched in 2021, the Transit Within Reach program provides consulting services for the design and preliminary engineering of “small, high-impact bicycle and pedestrian projects,” per COG.

The Transportation Planning Board approved a total of $250,000 in funding from the program at its meeting last Wednesday (Oct. 18). The other projects were a shared-use path in Gaithersburg and a sidewalk in D.C.

FCDOT is also working on a separate study to identify potential improvements on Gallows Road. Staff told community members at a meeting last month that traffic congestion, crashes, a lack of sidewalks and general pedestrian, bicycle and transit safety are all issues on the 7-mile corridor, Annandale Today reported.

While that study won’t assess or make recommendations for Prosperity Avenue, it could “be informed” by the road diet and bicycle lanes project, according to FCDOT.

Image via Google Maps

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Vivid Chill opens in the Mosaic District (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

There’s a new shop in Merrifield focusing on an eclectic, “curated collection” of handcrafted goods.

Vivid Chill hosted a grand opening this past weekend in the Mosaic District, moving into Suite 150 at 2910 District Avenue from a spot in Great Falls.

The shop offers everything from jewelry and clothing to books, face oils and playdough.

According to Vivid Chill’s website, its focus is on “handcrafted, ethically made, sustainable, nontoxic, eco-friendly” goods.

Originally opened at Great Falls Village Centre in early 2021, the shop won a spot on Washingtonian’s Best New Shopsof 2021 list, which highlighted owner Marika Tsombikos’s dedication to selling only the best assorted items she can find, typically with clean design and bright colors.

Vivid Chill’s website says the store is open from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) The Mosaic District has reeled in a different kind of seafood restaurant.

Kreole, a new concept that blends flavors from Creole and Asian cuisines, will open in the Merrifield neighborhood tomorrow (Tuesday) next Monday (Oct. 23) at 2985 District Avenue, Unit 115. The news was first reported by Eater DC.

“We felt that there were no other concepts that connect the dirty south and far east in this area,” Kreole chef and owner Chad Sparrow said. “The food diversity in Mosaic has most things covered, but this hasn’t been done. We also think it will be a destination spot as so many ppl love seafood and the way we are preparing it is unique and bursting with flavor.”

Kreole takes the place of Junction Bar & Bistro, which opened last fall and comes from the same Alexandria-based restaurant group, Common Plate Hospitality.

Sparrow says the company determined it wasn’t “getting the legs that we had hoped for” from Junction, which still has locations in Alexandria, Capitol Hill and Chevy Chase. But Common Plate Hospitality is confident that Kreole will be a more successful catch for the Mosaic District.

“We thought that this concept is very different and would work better in this space,” Sparrow said.

Located next door to Urbano, a Tex-Mex eatery that also came from Common Plate, the 3,000-square-foot restaurant will have 90 indoor seats and 15 seats outside.

The menu consists of seafood “catches,” including crabs, lobster, shrimps, clams and oysters, that can be customized with different sauces, spice levels and add-ons, such as corn, potato, sticky rice or cajun fries. There are also some items like krispy wings and shaky beef that are designed to be shareable, along with soups and salads.

Hours of operation for the new restaurant will be 4-10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday and 4 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

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Aerial Candy owner Candy Cantu practices on a lyra at the new Merrifield studio (courtesy Aerial Candy)

An aerial dance studio based in Maryland will swoop across state lines this fall with an expansion into Merrifield.

Aerial Candy is transforming an industrial space at 2801 Merrilee Drive that was being used for storage into a studio where dancers can train with aerial silks, hoops and other specialized equipment.

On track to open in November, the new studio will become the “main” location for Aerial Candy, which currently operates inside Takoma Park’s Dance Exchange, owner Candy Cantu says.

“This is a wonderful location because it’s right off of the highway and I actually live in Virginia,” Cantu told FFXnow. “…I wanted something kind of more central, a little bit more of like a hub where it’s easier to have access to because it’s off 495, it’s off 66, it’s next to the Metro, it’s close to D.C. So, it just is right at that perfect spot.”

Established in 2019, Aerial Candy offers classes for both adults and children 6 and up in what Cantu calls “circus arts,” including aerial hoops and silks — the kinds of acrobatics you might see at Cirque du Soleil.

In fact, Cantu was scheduled to show the new, roughly 2,800-square-foot space to some Cirque du Soleil performers last week in the hopes they may use it for future photoshoots or rehearsals. The circus has been in Tysons since early September with the debut of its new show “ECHO.”

“Because it’s so close to their show, it kind of works as a nice place for them to either do photos or get some extra rehearsal times in,” Cantu said.

In addition to introductory, intermediate and advanced classes on silks and aerial hoops, also known as lyras, the Merrifield studio will likely offer contortion and flexibility training and possibly a static trapeze class, Cantu says. There will also be open gym sessions.

Cantu anticipates that having a second location will expand Aerial Candy to a new client base, but with the kids’ sessions at Takoma Park consistently filled to capacity, some patrons may shift over to Merrifield. Those who purchase a class pass or membership will be able to use them at either location.

As the studio build-out nears completion, including the installation of a mural by artist Christopher Lynch, Cantu says she’s excited to have a location closer to home and provide a creative space in an area where local artists are starting to find a foothold.

“There are some other studios that are slightly similar to what I’m trying to do, but I just think mine is going to be a little bit unique and different, and they’re so far and few in between,” Cantu said. “I’m just really excited about meeting all the people in the area. I’m really excited about building a community. That’s my favorite part.”

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There’s now a continuous shared-use path along northbound Route 29 between Vaden Drive and Nutley Street (courtesy VDOT)

A ditch will no longer force pedestrians and bicyclists to ditch the shared path along Route 29 in Merrifield.

Construction has been substantially completed on a new, unbroken shared-use path spanning about one-third of a mile between Vaden Drive and Nutley Street, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced on Friday (Oct. 6).

The path replaces an asphalt sidewalk that abruptly ended at an Accotink Creek tributary that runs under the roadway. In addition to filling in some missing segments, the project added a central yellow line to the new trail and extended a box culvert over the tributary to support it.

In the works since spring 2019, construction on the improvements began in November 2022. The project cost an estimated $3.8 million, funded by local dollars and a concession fee that the I-66 Express Lanes operator agreed to provide as part of the Outside the Beltway toll lanes extension.

“Construction on the project…is now substantially complete, with minor work occurring in the coming weeks until final completion with minimal impacts,” VDOT said.

While the new path isn’t especially long, it provides a crucial connection for pedestrians and cyclists to the nearby Vienna Metro station and other area sidewalks and trails, including ones in Towers Park, VDOT says.

However, that accessibility still ends at Nutley Street, since the south side of Route 29 has no sidewalk east of the intersection.

As part of a plan to redevelop the Pan Am Shopping Center, Fairfax County staff recommend implementing “continuous bicycle and pedestrian facilities along Route 29” in the future. The existing Bicycle Master Plan doesn’t show any trail on the south side and indicates that “further analysis and outreach is needed to determine the best fit for bicycle facilities along this roadway,” according to the amendment approved by the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 12.

Developer Federal Realty, which owns the shopping center, has proposed adding a 10-foot-wide shared-use path along Nutley Street with the redevelopment. To the north, VDOT is working to complete its I-66 shared-use trail, which opened a first segment in May that included a tunnel under Nutley.

As of Aug. 9, most remaining sections were slated to open this October, according to VDOT’s project website. That excludes a segment through the Route 50 interchange that’s not projected to open until spring 2024.

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A sign for Inova Fairfax Hospital sports the health care system’s new logo (courtesy Inova)

Inova this week unveiled a rebranding initiative with a new logo, look and tone that will “redefine the health system’s identity.”

“The launch of the new brand aims to capture the health system’s dedication to innovative, compassionate, patient-centered and world-class healthcare while fostering a culture of inclusivity and collaboration,” Inova said in a news release.

The nonprofit healthcare provider, which began in the 1950s as a community hospital serving Fairfax County, launched the new brand at its flagship Inova Fairfax Medical Campus (3300 Gallows Road) near Merrifield on Monday (Oct. 2).

“The brand refresh is a signal to the community of what they can expect from Inova,” said Tracey Schroeder, Inova’s chief communications and external affairs officer. “The quality of care, exceptional health outcomes and caring patient experience are what our patients value and depend on. With this rebrand, we’re modernizing how Inova looks to better represent the care that defines us.”

The release notes that, in August, Inova was named the top hospital in Virginia and the D.C. metropolitan area by U.S. News & World Report.

“All five Inova hospitals have received A Grades from the Leapfrog Group, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have recognized Inova with five stars for safety and quality – the only health system in the region to achieve this rating,” the release said.

Inova’s new logo “tells a clear story about how the health system, pronounced ‘in-OH-va,’ is always by your side,” according to the release.

Inova says the logo, which depicts two figures coming together, represents the fact that every step of the healthcare journey is taken together: whether it’s a provider comforting a patient, a doctor collaborating with a nurse or family member supporting a loved one.

“The logo evokes a warm, compassionate and welcoming environment where patients feel supported and valued,” the release said.

Inova preserved its recognizable blue in the new brand to build on strong brand equity, but updated the full color palette to include new colors that signal its new direction as a modern health system that continues to innovate and evolve.

“Our new brand is a mark of Inova’s progress in creating a unified clinical network, dedicated to delivering the highest quality of care to patients and families in Northern Virginia and beyond, and undeniably positions Inova to be among the leading health systems in the nation,” Inova President and CEO J. Stephen Jones said.

The new branding will be implemented at Inova locations on a rolling basis, with an advertising campaign planned in phases over the coming months. Inova will show up creatively in broadcast, streaming audio, digital and other multimedia channels.

The campaign will highlight specialty services and expert clinicians, emphasizing “their connection and dedication” to patients.

The rebrand announcement comes as Inova expands its health care facilities and services in the area, as laid out in its Eastern Region Development Plan. The organization recently added a behavioral health unit at its Mount Vernon hospital, and it got Fairfax County’s approval for a new Springfield hospital last year.

This article was written by FFXNow’s news partner InsideNoVa.com and republished with permission and some edits. Sign up for InsideNoVa.com’s free email subscription today.

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Virginia State Police vehicle (photo by John Calhoun/JC Photography)

(Updated at 12:35 p.m.) A pedestrian died last night (Sunday) after being hit by a driver on the Capital Beltway (I-495) near Merrifield, Virginia State Police say.

The state police responded to calls about a pedestrian being struck on a northbound I-495 service road to Route 50 around 9:14 p.m., according to a VSP spokesperson.

Identified as Douglas C. Haskett II, a 55-year-old Ashburn resident, the pedestrian was hit by the driver of a Chevrolet Traverse, who fled the scene. Haskett died at the scene, according to police.

A dispatcher asked for any unit on the Beltway that could “check on a pedestrian walking in the road,” according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.

“There’s people standing on that ramp north to 50,” the dispatcher told the responding troopers.

Troopers shut down the ramp from Gallows Road, reporting that there were “multiple vehicles” on the scene. However, the vehicle responsible for the crash was not present, a trooper told the dispatcher.

At 9:39 p.m., a Fairfax County police officer said they had “received a call from a citizen who believes he might be the hit-and-run driver,” according to the scanner.

“During the course of the crash investigation, state police were notified by Fairfax County Police that they had received a call from the driver of the Chevrolet,” VSP spokesperson Corinne Geller confirmed in an update around 12:20 p.m. today (Monday).

The call came from a parking garage in the Mosaic District. Upon locating the Chevrolet in the garage, troopers arrested the driver — Brian C. Diffell, 46, of Falls Church — and charged him with a felony count of hit-and-run.

“The investigation remains ongoing and in consultation with the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney,” Geller said.

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