Since its inception as a healing profession, massage therapy has been lauded by many as a means of reducing stress, relieving muscle aches and pains, and a part of simply increasing one’s general well-being. However, Sacramento law enforcement officials and lawmakers feel that there is a need, now more than ever, to crack down on illegal massage parlors; ones that have nothing to do with this traditional healing art, but are instead hotbeds of prostitution. Since 2008, the California Massage Therapy Council, a nonprofit organization, has been the certifying body for massage therapists in the state. Any massage therapist working in California must voluntarily register with this group. Yet, California officials say, isn’t enough. Many criminals are taking advantage of the loopholes left without the oversight of an actual state agency and using facilities claiming to house massage therapists for human trafficking and sex crimes.
Just this past week, 3 different women were arrested on charges of prostitution (and/or related charges) in Sacramento County. Allegedly, they were touting themselves as ‘massage therapists,’ while having no training whatsoever in that particular trade. 19-year-old, 25-year-old, and 56-year-old woman (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused) were the first 3 of what police say are many more arrests to come. Two of the suspected sex workers were employed at New York Massage on Fulton Avenue or Elite Massage on Madison Avenue.
California law dictates that any time, money, goods, or services exchanged for sexual favors, then the act of prostitution has occurred (CA Penal Code 647(b)). Both the ‘john’ and the prostitute could be arrested under this law; it is considered a misdemeanor and, if it is a first offense, may result in 6 months in county and/or a fine of $1,000.