Prostitution charges for the owner of the New England Patriots and the former CEO of Citibank are just the surface of an investigation into a human trafficking ring in Central and South Florida. The arrests of 25 men including the two businessmen is once again drawing attention to sex trafficking in massage parlors.
State lawmakers attempted to crack down on sex trafficking in massage parlors back in 2013 by preventing such businesses from operating between midnight and 5 a.m. State law also prevents employees from sleeping in those establishes, with few exceptions. At the time, the bill’s House sponsor, Dave Kerner (D-Palm Springs) noted it was a start in cracking down on sex trafficking.
“You know, this isn’t going to eradicate sexual trafficking, but it’s going to be a very powerful tool for law enforcement and our prosecutors to get into those establishments and start cleaning them up while maintaining and, quite frankly, raising the professionalism and integrity of the massage therapy profession," he said.
In the years since, prostitution busts have contiunued in massage parlors across the state. The most recent involves the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with solicitation of prostitution.
Police have said that business is connected to an international human trafficking ring. According to the TC Palm newspaper, "Surveillance revealed a steady stream of male clients at the nondescript business in a Jupiter strip center between 9 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. They would stay for 30 minutes to an hour, arrest records show. Women, many of them from China, lived inside and were not permitted to leave, detectives learned."
Governor Ron DeSantis says he doesn’t know much about the case, but suggests the state could revisit the issue.
“I think we all know Florida has been, in some ways, ground zero for human trafficking. I am supportive of our attorney general’s efforts. I am certainly open at looking at legislation to address it.”
The the investigation into 10 parlors in Central and South Florida found women participating in what authorities call “Sexual servitude.”
- Cove Day Spa: 6136 S.E. U.S.1, Stuart
- Therapy Spa: 2836 S.E. U.S. 1, Stuart
- Bridge Day Spa: 11774 S.E. U.S. 1, Hobe Sound
- Orchids of Asia Day Spa: 103 U.S. 1, Jupiter
- Sequoia Apple Day Spa: 10447 S.E. U.S. 1, Hobe Sound
- East Spa: 2345 14th Ave., Suite 10, Vero Beach
- AA Massage: 1547 U.S. 1, Sebastian
- East Sea Spa: 13401 U.S. 1, Sebastian
- East Spa: 1410A Gene St., Winter Park
- Rainbow Spa: 1809-2 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando
No legislation has been filed addressing massage parlors and sex trafficking, but Claire VanSusteren, a spokeswoman for Senator Lauren Book, says the Broward Democrat is considering adding language to her human trafficking bill to include massage parlors. Right now, Book’s bill addresses trafficking in hotels by requiring employees be trained to spot human trafficking and report it.