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Public Health shuts down three massage parlors, citing suspected prostitution

Kern County Public Health officials shut down three massage parlors Monday evening after taking part in a multi-agency sting operation that uncovered suspected prostitution, health officials said.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Kern County Public Health Services Department conducted undercover sting operations at Oriental Foot and Body Massage, Never Say Goodbye Massage and Forest Garden Massage in northwest Bakersfield.

Three people were cited — one at each parlor — for county ordinance violations, including exposing genital parts, touching genital parts and solicitation of prostitution. They are a 54-year-old woman from San Gabriel; a 59-year-old woman from Monterey Park; and a 60-year-old woman from Bakersfield.

Their names are being withheld by The Californian in case they are victims of human trafficking — something law enforcement did not charge, but is not uncommon among illicit massage parlor employees, experts have said.

The sting operation Monday marks the fourth of its kind this year under a new county ordinance that requires Public Health officials to regulate massage establishments. They’ve shut down 10 massage establishments, and 100 percent of their decoy operations have resulted in county ordinance violations related to prostitution.

“This is something that we as a county are concerned about,” Public Health spokeswoman Michelle Corson said. Most troubling, Corson said, was the proximity that illicit parlors operate to businesses frequented by families. One was adjacent to a Subway restaurant, and another next to Rusty’s Pizza Parlor, she said.

“Families are there,” she said.

When the ordinance was passed, some Kern County supervisors touted it as a way for the county to crack down on illicit parlors bringing justice to victims of human trafficking.

So far, however, Kern County Sheriff’s officials have not arrested anybody for human trafficking during on of their stings, nor have they identified victims of trafficking.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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