Remember when Escondido Police last closed down a local massage parlor allegedly involved in prostitution? Seemed like just last month. Or cracked down on human trafficking, this time last September?
Guess what? Theeeeey’re back.
Police, that is, raiding even more Escondido massage parlors allegedly engaged in illegal activity, this time of the municipal code violation or other civil miscreant kind.
“Although the majority of massage businesses are reputable and operate within the law, a small number are simply fronts for prostitution and human trafficking crimes,” Escondido police Lt. Ed Varso said. “On Wednesday, Jan. 20, in an effort to address illegal activity, Escondido police lead a joint operation to inspect numerous local massage businesses”
The news was not good in regards to decent, law-abiding massage parlors, of which apparently there were few, according to police. Varso said inspectors from the Escondido City Attorney’s office, Escondido Code Enforcement, Escondido Fire Department and state agencies joined forces to root out alleged massage parlor code and safety indiscretions. They visited 22 establishments and found violations at 15 of them.
The good news, though, was reserved for the 20 percent of local massages that came up clean. To the others, not so good, as 10 were alleged to have violated fire and life safety-related ordinances, according to Varso with $10,000 assessed in state fines to several of those cited.
Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter oversaw the operation and promised continued vigilance. Our city welcomes reputable businesses,” he said. “However, if a business engages in unlawful activity, we will use all legal means to either gain compliance or shut the business down.”
Carter added that the department “will pursue criminal charges against employees and business owners who choose to operate their business in violation of existing laws.”
The September massage parlor sweep netted a whole bunch of alleged wrongdoing. One of the businesses, Oriental Therapy, 1645 E Valley Parkway was shut down in December, 2015 as a result police oversight, according to Varso.
Past as prologue
Police raids into local massage parlor and in pursuit of human traffickers have taken place pretty much semi-annually for a decade, actually. For example, Oriental Therapy, which billed itself as “Best Massage & Service in Town,” was raided in April 2005, along with three other Asian-themed massage parlors.
Thirty officers from Escondido, Oceanside, Carlsbad and a slew of investigative agencies, swept through Sunset Acupuncture, JK Healthcare and Sundance Spa in addition to the infamous Oriental Therapy.
Asia Acupressure escaped police action by telling officers they had a “water supply problem” and would be shut down that day.
Six suspects were arrested during the raids for activity pertaining to the massage parlors and one person was arrested on suspicion of delaying a police officer, according to Escondido detective Lt. David Mankin
The Sept. 25 sting by Escondido police netted five suspects who approached “undercover operatives” at downtown motels seeking sex.
“As a result of this enforcement effort, five men approached the undercover personnel and made arrangements to trade money for sex acts,” Escondido Police Lt. Greg Kogler said.
“These men went to an agreed location where they were contacted and arrested by uniformed law enforcement officers for the violation of California Penal Code section 647(b) (soliciting or agreeing to participate in any act of prostitution); a misdemeanor violation” Kogler said.
A lot of the prostitution in Escondido is directed by criminal gangs or organized crime, Kogler continued. Women were seen as re-usable commodities generating significant income for these illicit groups while presenting little risk for the pimps and gains benefitting from the activity, he said.
That effort, police said, was part of an increasing focus on the Escondido department to address human trafficking. All persons arrested in the operations were to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, Kogler said.