The Mercury News (for Silicon Valley) reports that 80% of the City of Belmont, California's massage therapists are prostitutes. This is according to the local city attorney. What's more, the schools for massage therapy are suspected of being "fronts" to legitimize prostitution.
This is reporter Mike Rosenberg's story:
"Four out of every five licensed massage therapists in Belmont 'graduated' from illegitimate schools that sometimes serve as fronts to allow sex workers to set up legal operations, city officials said Friday. City Attorney Marc Zafferano recommended banning any new massage permits for one year, after an inventory of the city's 46 licensed massage technicians concluded 37 went to schools deemed suspect by a state watchdog agency.
The California Massage Therapy Council, a nonprofit group created by the state Legislature last year, recently investigated massage schools throughout the state and found 31 to be illegitimate, according to Zafferano. The city then checked its roster of approved massage therapists to see how many went to those schools. n a memo to council members, Zafferano, citing the state agency, said the schools 'serve as a conduit for sex workers who then apply to set up illegitimate massage businesses in cities across the state.'
But Ahmos Netanel, CEO of the Sacramento-based therapy council, said he was 'baffled' by that classification. He said they put schools on the list for a variety of reasons, including getting caught selling diplomas and fabricating training time by approving hundreds of hours in a week, for example. Zafferano could not be reached Friday afternoon for a response to Netanel's comments.
Earlier Friday, Zafferano said the city previously had no reason to believe these schools — which offer 'convincing-looking diplomas' — could be shady. The city's annual permitting process includes education and training requirements, plus criminal background checks and a $150 renewal fee.
'They complied with all of those standards — or at least they apparently did,' Zafferano said. Zafferano said technicians from schools on the list will not be able to renew their licenses unless they prove they have additional education. Police Lt. Pat Halleran said detectives will be contacting the suspected technicians regarding their permits and for potential criminal investigations.
'We're not trying to put legitimate people out of business but by the same token we want the illegitimate ones to stop, obviously,' Halleran said. Halleran said investigations of massage parlors are labor intensive and, in recent years, police have suspended operations of a few for code violations but made no arrests.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider adopting an urgency ordinance to place a moratorium on any new massage practitioners for the following 45 days. The council would vote on Aug. 10 extend the ban through July 2011. 'I guess I was surprised that it was that blatant,' said City Councilman Dave Warden.
But Netanel said legitimate massage therapists could still circumvent the city licensing process by getting certified by his group, since state law gives his agency jurisdiction. None of the technicians who have recently applied went to legitimate schools, Zafferano said. Susan Fleming, a Belmont-based massage therapist since 1992, said government needs to increase standards so legitimate workers will not be compared to prostitutes.
'I see that there's a big problem with the distinction between therapeutic body work and adult entertainment,' Fleming said. 'As much as we can try to separate the categories, the better off it is. It does bother me that the public isn't educated enough to know the difference sometimes.'
Schools on the list named on the therapy council's website include Yunique Wellness Center, Tammy Beauty Academy and USA Pain Care College. It is unclear whether the problem is especially rampant in Belmont, where there are 10 massage parlors, or if the city is merely alone in researching its massage therapists. No other cities in San Mateo County have approved similar moratoriums in recent weeks. In San Mateo and Burlingame, at least, no inventories of those cities' massage parlors have been conducted, officials said."
San Mateo City Attorney Shawn Mason said the city is aware of the state list and can deny new permits to those whose only education is an illegitimate school. But for permit renewals, they do not reject those who graduated from the listed schools because they don't know whether the schools were legitimate at the time they attended.
Persons in my former calling are often called "prostitutes," usually unfairly; although there are lawyers labeled as whores who insult prostitutes by comparison. We have seen enough of this sort, here, on Bad Lawyer.