Added: Blas Kirsch - Date: 05.12.2021 16:02 - Views: 37425 - Clicks: 6148
AP — When Florida authorities shut down 10 massage spas last month and charged hundreds of men with buying sex, they broke a longstanding pattern of meting out minor charges and punishment for owners, letting patrons off scot-free and turning a mostly blind eye to s of human trafficking.
Johns usually were not charged at all. In stark contrast, the investigation announced last month spanned several jurisdictions between Palm Beach and Orlando and focused heavily on the possibility of widespread human trafficking. Several spa owners, most of them women originally from China, were charged with felony racketeering and money laundering and could face years in prison. Authorities say Kraft was twice recorded on video engaging in and then paying for sex acts at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, located in a shopping center in Jupiter.
Both men have denied wrongdoing. Florida has more than 8, d massage therapy establishments. Nationwide, the anti-trafficking advocacy group Polaris estimates there are 9, massage establishments with therapists who are trafficked from other places and forced to provide sex acts. The AP reviewed records from more than Florida Department of Health cases involving massage parlors whose s had been revoked, suspended or voluntarily surrendered in the past decade.
Of the spas that lost their s, almost 40 percent had massage therapists involved in sexual activity, the AP found. Few of the cases resulted in charges of human trafficking, and those that did ended with only minor punishments. In , Mi Cha Jones, owner of the Jee Jee spa in Miami Beach, was charged with two felony counts of human trafficking and one felony count of deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution. Jones was sentenced to only two years of probation after pleading guilty to the latter count in Nearly five years ago, investigators found clear evidence of prostitution and a potential of human trafficking — women living on the premises — at the O Asian Wellness Spa and Massage in Boca Raton.
None of the johns who patronized the parlor were charged at all. In , an inspector found three rooms with beds, clothes, computers, cellphones, desks and a refrigerator full of food at Serenity Massage in Tampa.
The owner admitted massage therapists were living there but was ultimately only fined. There was no indication any investigation into human trafficking was ever launched. A tougher stance is being championed by Martin County Sheriff William Snyder, whose agency spearheaded the current investigation after receiving a tip from a state health investigator. He was elected sheriff that same year. Still, it remains to be seen whether anything will truly change. He said many of the women fear deportation, even though they could be eligible for a visa if they cooperated.
They also fear traffickers will harm their families back home, he said. And while hundreds of men identified as johns have been accused, Kraft and others have been charged only with misdemeanors that prosecutors have offered to drop if they agree to participate in a diversion program. Still, the sheriff says he hopes the national spotlight that has shone on the Kraft case will make other potential clients think twice before risking a visit to an illicit massage parlor.
This story corrects that Kraft, Havens and many others accused were charged but not arrested. With AP Photo. Sections U. AP Investigation: Florida gets tougher on massage-parlor sex. An Associated Press review of state records shows that officers and deputies in Florida have investigated hundreds of massage parlors for illegal sexual activity for years, but the owners and employees usually get off with civil fines and misdemeanor charges, even when there are s of potential trafficking.
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