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Sex parlors are black eyes for spas

Posted: September 11, 2008 6:09 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 
Karen Maleck-Whiteley wished she didn't have to read headlines about prostitutes working at massage parlors.

In the legitimate massage world, massage parlors doubling as brothels are a black eye on the industry, she said.

Maleck-Whiteley owns Balance Point Spa. She read The Signal story Thursday about a sting operation that hooked two alleged prostitutes working at L&V Asia Massage in Valencia and wasn't happy with the coverage, she said.

"Most of our clients know the difference between a good massage and a bad massage," Maleck-Whiteley said. Her clients, who usually work off referrals from other clients, also know the difference between therapeutic massage intended at relieving pain and erotic massage intended to stimulate other body parts, she said.

Erotic massage parlors often wiggle under the radar of county officials, Maleck-Whiteley said. The Los Angeles County health department inspects the parlors about every two years, she said. The illegitimate places have enough time to make their money, close shop and move to the next location before officials get wise, she said.

Closing down erotic massage parlors is no help to Maleck-Whiteley's business. Men looking for sex just end up at legitimate massage parlors looking for sex. She has heard stories from friends in the business about men who come in looking for massage and ask the owner to parade all the women out for clients to pick through like a buffet, she said.

Maleck-Whiteley doesn't blame the women locked in the sex trade for the problems with sex parlors.
"There are men throughout our community that are looking for this," she said. Those men come in from all classes, she said. "I can't say there is a type. I have seen guys who are grandpas looking for sex."

Massage therapists are licensed through the Sheriff's Department Licensing Division due to the prevalence of criminal activity plaguing the industry, said Sgt. Eric Toussaint, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Major Crimes Division.

Therapists go through rigorous screening with background checks and a physical exam to assure masseuses don't have communicable diseases. The licensing division also does regular checks on the massage therapists, Toussaint said. Tips from licensing deputies or from the public are handed over to vice detectives who can set up a sting, he said.

Toussaint isn't sure how often vice detectives respond to crime tips related to massage parlors but deputies are dispatched weekly to investigate sex crimes including some at massage parlors, he said. The owner of L&V Asia Massage declined comment.

It is unknown whether the women nabbed in the sting are working as masseuses again. Linna Bernier, 50, of Valencia, and Guiying Tang, 48, of Arcadia, are due in court Oct. 21, a sheriff's official said.

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