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Erotic massage businesses like those growing in Iowa also are expanding across the United States. Concerns about human trafficking, prostitution and und workers have prompted cities to take a mix of action, but the underground nature of the illicit parlors and their mobility make the industry hard to curtail.

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The national anti-trafficking group Polaris has identified Des Moines as one of its top cities of concern. State and local officials say constituents want them to weed illicit businesses, and some called on local, state and federal law enforcement to do more.

Steve Franklin, the community development director in Urbandale, said police have been investigating several massage businesses in that suburb. Urbandale does not allow businesses that offer massages exclusively — without other spa services — to operate within the city. The city does not require business s, but it does require business owners to submit a narrative explaining the services they will provide, he said.

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The businesses are considered retail and don't require a local permit to operate, she said. But the inspections division can take action if people are living in commercial buildings, she said. The Watchdog probe found arrests for prostitution and und workers have been made around the state.

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But Des Moines police say they have never been offered sex during a sting, and some of the businesses appear to be legitimate. However, complaints of und activity at four businesses, including Lotus Spa in Beaverdale Place in Des Moines, are scheduled for discussion during a Dec. That spa has been the focus of residents' concern, but the co-owner told the Watchdog the business is legitimate. Watchdog made a request for the locations of the other three businesses but did not receive an immediate response.

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Neither U. Last month, a Wisconsin veterinarian, Brian Lee Kersten, was convicted of paying a New York madam to bring young Chinese women to Minnesota for work in massage businesses. He also helped transport East Coast prostitutes to hotels in Minnesota. She flew them to the Twin Cities, and placed for their services online.

Airport surveillance showed his vehicles picking up new women at the airport, according to the complaint.

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In June last year in Utah, law enforcement conducted the largest human trafficking raid in state history, serving search warrants on 11 massage parlors. The owner of the parlor took half of what the women were paid for performing sex acts. The women had been trafficked illegally into the U. Two years ago, the Urban Institute, a national policy think tank and research organization, completed a years-long study of the sex trade in eight U. Interviewing a mix of local, state and federal enforcement, they found that women hired in the massage industry mostly were of Korean or Chinese decent.

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Some had entered the country on legitimate visas. Other women were smuggled into the U. Law enforcement in the different cities disagreed about how extensively women in the trade were likely victims of human trafficking.

Experts say stings are starting to happen at illicit massage parlors across the country, like the one that ensnared Patriots owner Robert Kraft. But none have happened in Iowa, Reader's Watchdog found.

In some cities such as Dallas, massage parlors operating in the sex trade appeared highly organized and, in some cases, could be traced to organized crime. In others, most of the women involved appeared to get their start in the trade in major cities such as Houston, Dallas or Seattle, then networked to open businesses offering prostitution in different cities. In cities like San Diego, police admitted the parlors were no longer a law enforcement priority.

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Many of the women involved, they said, came from remote parts of China, making it difficult to find translators to carry out investigations. When city officials moved to crack down on the women living in the businesses, the women moved to nearby apartments, law enforcement said.

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In Seattle, where the parlors have exploded in the last decade, some of the fronts for prostitution also offer tanning to diversify services, though women were not being accepted as clients. Law enforcement there said the businesses appeared to also operate off-site prostitution, because receipts found at raids suggest they send thousands via Western Union back to China, much more than the massage business itself appeared to take in.

The city saw a rise in brothels run in homes, along with massage businesses.

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Elsewhere around the country, some cities have enhanced public nuisance laws to go after the businesses. In Sandy Springs, Ga. In Macon, Ga. An ordinance required the businesses to have a and made owners submit to background checks.

Des Moines Police Mkae Arrests, Let Man be Attacked

The move came after parts of the city saw a spike in the illicit businesses after the state made massage therapy licensing voluntary, according to the Los Angeles Times. In the ongoing lawsuit, the city attorney alleged the owners were running brothels, and advertised their services on Craigslist.

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State nuisance law allows county attorneys and citizens to take civil action against nuisance businesses and the owners of the buildings in which they exist. Cities and counties often also have their own nuisance laws.

Police Catch One of Thier Own

State code also provides criminal penalties for public nuisances. Facebook Twitter. Des Moines not alone in struggle with Illicit massage parlors. Lee Rood lrood dmreg.

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Massage Parlors raise questions across the metro. Massage parlors have popped up across the metro. Tom Coleman, a local businessman near one of the parlors, and his brother, City Councilman Chris Coleman discuss some of the concerns of some have about prostitution and trafficking.

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