Attorney General Paxton filed two separate lawsuits asking the courts to stop 5 Star Massage and Savvy Skin, both located in Montgomery County, Texas, from operating illicit massage establishments in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.
“There are thousands of illicit massage businesses across America that take advantage of women and serve as fronts for organized criminal activity, including money laundering, immigration fraud, smuggling, tax evasion, and wage violations,” said Attorney General Paxton. “We are going to use the full force of the law to ensure that the operators of these businesses and those who aid in the exploitation of women are brought to justice. I would encourage all citizens to be on the lookout for these illegal businesses and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement. And I want to thank the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office for their work in investigating and developing these specific cases. Together, we can shut these businesses down and protect women trapped in a system of human trafficking.”
The lawsuits were filed with the assistance of the Montgomery County Sherriff’s Office. The Office of the Attorney General obtained temporary restraining orders from the Montgomery County District Court, effectively shutting down the illicit massage establishments.
An estimated 9,000 illicit massage businesses currently operate in the United States, 700 of which are believed to be in Texas. These harmful businesses are prevalent in major cities, but they have also begun spreading into smaller towns, cities, and suburban areas.
According to the lawsuits, illicit massage businesses sell commercial sex under the guise of legitimate massage therapy services. Many of the women employed at illicit massage businesses are victims of human trafficking. Several of these victims are trafficked from China, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam Recruiters often direct victims to job leads within their communities through fake advertisements promising high wages for work as a legal massage therapist and providing housing, transportation, and assistance with immigration and licensing.
In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed several statutes addressing illicit massage businesses, including Senate Bill 2065, which made it illegal to own, operate, maintain, or advertise a massage business in violation of the Texas Occupations Code or local massage establishment ordinances.
If law enforcement officials in Texas believe that an illicit massage establishment is operating within their jurisdictions, please contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 621-0508. If Texans would like to report suspicious or illicit activity at a massage business in their community, they may file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 621-0508 or the with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation by clicking here.