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Massage parlor licensing sought

December 16, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades has asked for a law that would allow the county to toughen regulations aimed at preventing massage parlors from being used as fronts for prostitution.

The request was prompted by a Sheriff's Department raid in May at Deanna's Massage Therapy and Wellness Center at 13508 Pennsylvania Ave. The raid resulted in prostitution charges against two female employees who were also charged with working without state-certified massage therapist licenses.

Deputy Chris Weaver said Thursday there is an outstanding warrant for a third woman facing prostitution charges as a result of the raid.

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The raid followed complaints that the parlor was a haven for prostitution.

Mades wants lawmakers to approve a bill for Washington County similar to a Charles County bill passed in 2002 that requires massage practitioners to be licensed by the county, he said. Violators could face a fine up to $5,000 and imprisonment up to a year.

Massage practitioners in Washington County only need to be certified by the State Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Mades said he did not know the enforcement procedures of that board.

The law would allow the Sheriff's Department and the Washington County Health Department to establish regulations and enforcement procedures for the massage parlors, Mades said.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said the county license would be in addition to the state license.

Deanna's Massage Therapy and Wellness Center's application for a business permit included the valid license of a massage practitioner who never worked for the business, officials said. The Washington County Permits and Inspections Department issued the permit.

Permits and Inspections Director Paul Prodonovich could not be reached for comment.

"Things fell through the cracks," Mades said. "It probably shouldn't have gotten that far if there was a checks and balances in place."

Mades' request has the support of at least two County Commissioners. The commissioners will decide on Tuesday whether to add the request to its legislative agenda.

"If he feels that something needs to be added right now, I don't have any problem supporting it," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Commissioner John C. Munson said massage parlors are not vital to the county, but he would go along with Mades' request to better regulate them if it is approved by lawmakers.

"I think it would give us more control and keep the illegitimate stuff out of there," Munson said.

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