Sep 1, 2013
06:21 AM
Connecticut Today

Fighting Connecticut Massage Parlors That May Offer Sex Services Is a Challenge

Fighting Connecticut Massage Parlors That May Offer Sex Services Is a Challenge

New Haven Register file photo

The former Jade Massage Therapy in Clinton, which was raided by authorities in 2012.

 

 

Bridgeport massage parlors — with names like Oriental Health Spa and Fantasy Studio — were closed by authorities in December 2012; more closings followed in January.

Branford closed a massage parlor in March for code violations. North Haven and East Haven police raided three massage parlors in June.

Milford police, accompanied by city health inspectors, closed four of the city’s 19 massage parlors two weeks ago for allegedly violating a state law dealing with licensing of massage therapists.

But one of several ads recently on Backpage.com advertised a “Grand open (August 16) Asian Girls Massage” on East Main Street, Branford, and another listing touted a grand opening on Main Street in Monroe. There are 40 ads on the New Haven page of bodyrubs.com, though most leave only a phone number and not a place of business.

Those who advertise for apparent sex services can be a moving target, but state and municipal officials are adding to their legal arsenals as illegal massage parlors continue to pop up on Main Street USA.

There is no state regulation of massage parlors per se, only that massage therapists must obtain a license from the state Department of Public Health. Illegal massage parlors are more likely to face action by local police, health and building officials.

With such concerns in mind, the East Shore Health District (covering Branford, East Haven and North Branford) has been preparing an ordinance that may be a­dopted in all three towns to give authorities a new tool in the fight against such fronts for prostitution.

Director Mike Pascucilla said public discussions are being held with police, local officials and legitimate massage therapists, trying to draft an ordinance that won’t harm legal businesses — a day spa or chiropractor who employs a massage therapist, for example, as it discourages illegal businesses.

An older weapon with new ammunition against illegal businesses is the Asset Forfeiture Bureau/Nuisance Abatement Unit of the state’s attorney’s office, which basically works on civil remedies for law enforcement, said Christopher Malany, supervisory assistant state’s attorney. The unit was given added legal teeth this year.

“The whole idea of having civil remedies like nuisance abatement, asset forfeiture is to give you other avenues for dealing with the problem, not just lock ’em up,” he said.

It’s a recurring problem from Norwalk to Waterbury to the east shore, and while offenders are of different races, many take on a similar look in storefronts or online.

Asked about the ads and posters that advertise Asian women and massages, Malany said, “A lot of the massage parlors I’ve encountered along the coast have involved Asian women. And there’s an awful human-trafficking aspect to it. These people (working there) are virtually slaves; they don’t speak the language, they have no marketable skills, they’re often without papers. ... You’ve got a half-dozen young women, a mama-san as a manager and then the ownership is some holding company in White Plains. I’ve seen that happen often enough that it’s a pattern.”

In those cases, he’ll work with immigration authorities, too, although budget cuts have hit Malany’s Asset Forfeiture and Nuisance Abatement Bureau, trimming his staff of prosecutors from five to three.

“That doesn’t prevent us (from bringing actions),” Malany said. He mentioned non-massage parlor cases including a Hartford bodega with recurring drug violations and the Hotel Hooker in Willimantic, renowned for alleged drug infestation and prostitution.

“We brought the public nuisance abatement,” Malany said of Hotel Hooker (named after the man, not the pejorative), and when the landlord wouldn’t cooperate, the court appointed a receiver for the property and changes were made.

While some investigations of parlors lead to criminal charges, others find compliance. Milford inspected six in August, closing the four, but just Wednesday one of the four (Kung-Fu Massage, 1201 Boston Post Road) was reinspected, found in compliance and reopened, said Milford Police Lt. Vaughan Dumas.

The August action was not an undercover operation specifically targeting prostitution, Dumas said. Police notified the establishments that they would be coming around to check on compliance with the new law requiring licensed therapists, and then they went around with city health officials and a state police representative to inspect for compliance with that and other health codes.

“There are certain health codes for operation ... with regard to sanitary conditions, sinks and washing stations and things of that nature,” Dumas said.

The state police person was there mainly to translate, Dumas said, or in the event they found undocumented immigrants.

As for a typical state police role, Lt. J. Paul Vance said, “We are able to provide undercover troopers to assist in the investigations as requested by local departments. We also police any such establishments in our areas of jurisdiction.”

See the full story at New Haven Register online.

 

Fighting Connecticut Massage Parlors That May Offer Sex Services Is a Challenge

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