Last year, the City of Lancaster put a firm foot down on illegal massage operations throughout the community.  A total of 67 code enforcement violation cases were closed in 2009, a 22 percent drop in services offered by a combination of massage establishments and independent businesses.

The City of Lancaster Code Enforcement Department coordinates with the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit, State Employment Development Department, and several other agencies to inspect and close massage establishments which are operating illegally.

“The City takes citizen complaints very seriously, and utilizes these tips and statements to inspect and investigate all illegal activity within massage establishments,” commented Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris.

“During the course of our investigation, we have uncovered prostitution; Worker’s Compensation insurance fraud, unlicensed massage therapists, money laundering, illegal occupancy, as well as other violations of the Lancaster Municipal Code,” stated Lancaster Code Enforcement Officer Justin Lewis. 

Some of the complaints received from citizens include; massage therapists only massaging male customers, prostitution, adult material within the business, and violations of the massage ordinance. 

According to Officer Lewis, over the last year the City conducted multiple inspections and undercover stings which led to nine massage therapists being arrested for prostitution. 

Several other inspections have led to court cases which have been filed by the Lancaster Code Enforcement Department through the City Prosecutors office. 

These cases address unlicensed massage therapists and owners who allow their employees to conduct illegal massage activities. 

Many establishments violated Building Code regulations by allowing massage therapists to live at the business; using portable propane stoves for cooking; having unpermitted structures; and disobeying fire code and plumbing requirements.  In addition, the City has coordinated with the State Economic Development Department to inspect and cite massage establishments for thousands of dollars in payroll and Workman’s Compensation Insurance violations. 

“Currently, the most common violation is that of hiring unlicensed Massage Therapists.  This practice is used to defraud the City of licensing revenue.  It is also a means to avoid conducting proper background checks which may reveal disqualifying convictions associated with the party being considered for employment,” remarked Officer Lewis.

Increased enforcement of extensive background checks and regulatory application processing has led to the many closures of massage establishments and unlicensed massage therapists within the City. There are strict criteria which must be followed by massage therapists who are not state licensed to be able obtain and practice massage within the City of Lancaster. 

Some of the criteria include: dressing in professional attire; obtaining valid licensing; performing massage in an unlocked room; conducting only massage services permitted by law; maintaining a list of services available at the place of business; and practicing massage only within the establishment to which the license applies. 

“This ongoing effort by Code Enforcement has created a safer environment for the community at large by identifying which massage establishments are licensed and operating for the purpose of helping citizens who are in need of quality therapeutic services,” concluded Officer Lewis.

Currently, the City has on file a list of all licensed masseuses and massage establishments available to the public.