The Texas Office of the Attorney General’s Rick Berlin and nonprofit Children at Risk held a press conference today in Houston to explain the high risk of human trafficking and increased crime in illicit massage businesses. These businesses, which are usually unlicensed, use the cover of a legitimate service to secretly engage in both prostitution and often human trafficking by using force, fraud or coercion to compel employees to provide sexual services to customers. These illicit and clandestine operations not only put vulnerable communities at risk, but also drain time and resources from local law enforcement.
An estimated 9,000 illicit massage businesses currently operate in the United States, 700 of which are in Texas. These harmful businesses are prevalent in major cities, but have also began spreading into smaller towns, cities and suburbs. Countless women are trapped in these storefronts and forced to provide sexual services to as many as ten men per day. Not only are these women enslaved in a system of human trafficking, these businesses often function as fronts for other organized criminal activity such as money laundering, immigration fraud, smuggling, tax evasion, and wage and hour violations.
“Human trafficking is a hideous form of modern-day slavery that deeply affects our communities, and my office is committed to doing everything in our power to put an end to this tragic crime in Texas,” said Attorney General Paxton. “Illegal businesses that abuse and enslave our vulnerable citizens will not be allowed to stand in this great state.”
In 2017, the 85th Texas Legislature passed several statutes addressing illicit massage businesses, including Senate Bill 2065, which made the operation, maintenance or advertisement of an unlicensed massage business a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices – Consumer Protection Act. House Bill 2552 also amended the Common Nuisance statute to allow law enforcement to send a notice of arrest for prostitution or maintaining an unlicensed massage business.
The Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division will complement ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking by actively reducing the number of illegal massage businesses in Texas communities. The Office of the Attorney General encourages anyone with information relating to the operation of an illegal massage parlor to contact the Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 621-0508 or file a complaint online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/consumer-protection/file-consumer-complaint