AVON - City Council wants to regulate massage parlors and require workers to have a minimum of 100 hours of job-related training following a raid July 31 at a Detroit Road business where officials believe prostitution occurred.
Avon Law Director John Gasior discovered the city had no laws or requirements for masseuses, massage therapists or technicians like it has for hospitals, medical-related practices and chiropractors after authorities raided Posh Massage, 37300 Detroit Road.
Posh Massage was one of 13 massage parlors that agents from the Ohio Investigative Unit and the U.S. Secret Service raided as part of an ongoing investigation. The investigation was launched two years ago following complaints about illicit and illegal sexual activity at the facilities.
Evidence seized at Posh pointed to sexual activity, said Greg Croft, the OIU agent in charge of the Cleveland office. No arrests were made in Avon at the time, but a woman at Posh was questioned and released, Croft said.
However, on July 31, authorities arrested three men and three women who they believed to be involved in the parlors and promoting prostitution, including Jia Yue Dong, 42, of Brunswick, who managed Posh and other massage yparlors throughout northern Ohio, authorities said. All six were indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury on prostitution-related charges.
In September, authorities indicted 12 more people on prostitution-related charges, conspiracy and money-laundering charges.
Jia Yue Dong was involved in all of the massage parlors raided in one way or another, Croft said.
“He was the main target,” Croft said of Dong, whose brother Xin Dong, also was indicted in connection with the operation on Sept.13. “It was a very intricate web of the locations we raided and there was evidence they all were engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.”
Their trial is scheduled to start next year, Croft said.
Posh remains closed, said Gasior, who is researching and drafting the proposed massage parlor law, which could be adopted in early November.
During council's Legal Committee meeting earlier this month, Gasior advised members that the city needs to regulate massage parlors to ensure that the workers are trained and legitimate. He is reviewing the city of Warren's massage parlor law, adopted in 2012 following problems there with massage parlors, he said. That law requires those working in massage parlors to have a minimum of 100 hours training as opposed to a minimum of 600 hours training for those in hospital rehabilitation areas or medical offices, Gasior said.
"It's a health, safety and welfare issue," Gasior said. "We need a law in place to make sure people are legitimate practitioners and not doing anything illegal." We were aware that there were issues. Our concerns are about the possibility of human trafficking and prostitution going on inside massage parlors in our city."
Councilman Bob Butkowski, who serves on the Legal Committee, said putting a law into place protects the parlors running a legitimate business.
"We want to make sure we have some kind of licensure or training requirement in place for the workers, similar to the state,” he said. “The state is trying to cut down on human trafficking, and there's concerns about that going on in massage parlors throughout Ohio. We want to do what we can to reduce the chances, if not eliminate that from happening here."
Hospitals and medical centers require the massage therapists or massage technicians it hires to be licensed by the Ohio Medical Board, and Lorain County Public Health inspects the businesses to make sure they are operating under sanitary conditions and abiding by health codes, Gasior said.
North Olmsted adopted massage parlor regulations three years ago.
In 2016, Jia Yue Dong was convicted of operating a massage parlor without a permit in North Olmsted. The following year, the city filed a temporary restraining order against Dong to prevent him from opening and operating massage parlors in the city. The city accused him of participating in a “corporate shell game” by using friends and relatives to pose as the license applicants.
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