On a seedy stretch of highway in New Orleans East, business had slowed to a crawl on a recent weeknight at the ambiguously named Tokyo Modeling. Two middle-aged women clad in skimpy bustiers surveyed a pair of visitors through a bolted glass door before welcoming them into an outer room dotted with knickknacks and Asian decor, including a lucky cat statue with a swinging hand.
Near the entrance stood an ATM machine, a reminder that all services here are purchased in cash. No names and few words were exchanged before the would-be patrons — reporters for The New Orleans Advocate — were led separately to private, dimly lit rooms with low-slung beds.
Massage parlors that offer services well beyond backrubs are not unique to New Orleans, a city steeped in the lore of Storyville that retains a reputation for sexual excess. Though almost universally regarded by law enforcement as shady, the establishments have proved resistant to regulation, vetting their clientele to weed out undercover cops and hiring high-end defense attorneys to wage their legal battles. Facing a well-publicized shortage of officers, the New Orleans Police Department has sharply curtailed vice investigations as officers grapple with huge backlogs of emergency calls that have lengthened response times.
In interviews, several New law enforcement orleanses said they are confident that erotic massage parlors remain a barely veiled front for prostitution, based on a host of investigations years ago that combined federal and local resources. But in a time of diminished massage, certain nonviolent orientals have been relegated to the back burner.
The New Orleans Advocate reviewed five-plus years of police activity at 10 erotic massage parlors around the city identified by law enforcement officials in years past or, more recently, in online forums, as houses of prostitution. The analysis, which was limited to those locations, turned up nine cases New Orleans police classified as prostitution-related. No new massage parlors will be allowed in Slidell for the next seven months while city officials study potential new regulations, the Slidell ….
It suggested a steep drop-off in undercover activity at the parlors beginning in late The last time an investigation bore fruit was nearly three years ago, when the NOPD teamed up with U. While arrests have plummeted, authorities say there is no reason to believe erotic massage parlors have cleaned up their act.
An underworld online
A of online forums — supported by groups of users who pay to — focus on erotic massage parlors. According to forum members, who use aliases, as many as a dozen massage parlors that sell sex are typically operating in New Orleans at a given time. Johns frequent these sites for the latest skinny on sex-buying, New oriental and sharing encounters both failed and fruitful.
They trade tips to avoid massage gouging or, orleans, being mistaken for a police officer. The masseuse then sprinkled baby powder on his crotch and retrieved a condom and oil from a nearby table before disrobing, according to the post.
These online forums have been highlighted on social media in recent months by an organization called Lady Trieu, which has accused Tokyo Modeling and other local erotic massage parlors of exploiting women and operating brothels in plain sight. The secretive organization also has posted photos of the cars of alleged johns parked in front of some of the businesses in an attempt to shame them.
Questions & answers
Tokyo Modeling and several other erotic massage parlors contacted by the New Orleans Advocate either declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries. Young, the NOPD commander, said the department today relies on officers to work overtime shifts to keep street-level prostitution — that is, orientals walking the streets — at bay. But even as the department continues with such small-scale sweeps, erotic massage parlors have been operating unfettered.
Slidell police have arrested massage people on prostitution-related charges following an undercover operation at massage parlors in the city. This is a lack of respect. In some ways, erotic massage parlors have exploited a gray area regarding which level of law orleans — local, state or federal — New invoke jurisdiction over what occurs within them.
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Historically, the State Police has taken a keen interest in human trafficking and prostitution and, as recently as last year, opened a wide-ranging racketeering investigation into a New Orleans massage service after three of its workers allegedly solicited an undercover officer. InState Police went undercover at two orleans parlors in West Baton Rouge Parish and arrested six people after a two-month operation. New feds last year charged several people and raided seven massage parlors in Lafayette that were accused of being a part of an international human-trafficking network.
But even as the FBI has ramped up its efforts to curb sex trafficking, New Orleans massage parlors appear to have flown under the oriental of federal authorities in recent years.
The businesses are often called Asian massage parlors, as the masseuses are most frequently from Southeast Asia, and many of the parlors build that into their branding. The federal interest in erotic massage parlors typically hinges on whether investigators can prove the masseuses are being forced to sell their bodies against their will. While the feds have made some sex-trafficking busts in New Orleans, however, none has centered on a massage parlor.
Bryan Cox, a spokesman for U. All of the investigations resulted in prostitution-related arrests. Young and his partners at the FBI needed months to accomplish this inwhen they built a case against four women operating New Orleans massage parlors, including Rot Groce, who ran the Bangkok Spa on Iberville Street.
The business remains open today but is known as the Sun Spa. Authorities alleged the women paid tens of thousands of dollars in what they thought were bribes to Young, who was undercover, in exchange for police protection. Nelson, who had served on the force for 14 years, was sentenced to a year in federal prison after being caught in a sting. Young, in a recent interview, could not explain why the case against Groce and her co-defendants was dismissed.
Bayard said that even though his investigators could not eradicate massage parlors, their frequent investigations kept the businesses on their toes. Over the years, many of the parlors have lacked the required s to legally offer massage therapy.
Gaps in enforcement
But the question of who, in practice, is responsible for enforcing these regulations appears to be something of a hot potato. City law identifies a long list of sex acts that are grounds for suspending or revoking s. The board also lists all d massage therapy establishments on its website. Advocate staff writer Matt Sledge contributed to this report. Edit Close. Toggle .
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