Twenty-nine people face a total of 72 charges after Kent Police in November shut down 18 massage parlors allegedly operating as prostitution fronts.
Most of the charges filed by the Prosecution Division of the City Law Department are in pretrial status in Municipal Court, said City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick in a Jan. 11 email. He said the charges against massage parlor owners and employees range from prostitution, prostitution loitering, massage without a license, making false statements, various massage license violations and business license violations.
“To the best of our knowledge, none of the targeted illegal massage parlors are doing business in Kent,” Fitzpatrick said.
Police discovered during a several-months investigation that while many of these businesses advertise for massages, their real purpose is to engage in prostitution, according to a police media release. In addition, these businesses utilize employees who are not licensed by the state, fail to follow regulations to protect the health and privacy of patrons and fail to properly post licenses.
City prosecutors handle all criminal violations of city ordinances constituting misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. A conviction for a prostitution-related offense can carry a possibility of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, according to city code.
The massage parlors either forfeited their business licenses voluntarily or failed to attend the hearing the city set to address the forfeiture, Fitzpatrick said. In those cases in which a business failed to attend the hearing, the business license was forfeited by operation of law.
Three people were taken into custody during the crackdown, Fitzpatrick said. The rest of the people received a summons to appear in court.
Fitzpatrick said it was difficult to know how long the massage parlors operated in Kent.
“Many of these businesses engaged in the practice of changing business names or ownership on a frequent basis,” he said.
Nine of the massage parlors were in the Valley, six on the East Hill and three on the West Hill, according to police.