Following the Missouri Attorney General Office’s announcement in October of an initiative to combat human trafficking by targeting illicit massage businesses, a representative for the AG told the Courier-Tribune there are about 35 of these businesses in the Kansas City area. These businesses span an area from Liberty to Peculiar.
“Human trafficking is a global scourge that affects millions, including and especially here in Missouri. Using the legitimate massage business as a front, traffickers set up shop in strip malls or other commercial businesses and operate illicit massage parlors, often unbeknownst to the landlord,” said Attorney General Eric Schmitt. “… We want to send the message to anyone who is listening that the Missouri Attorney General’s Office will take action wherever possible to keep traffickers out of Missouri.”
The Hope Initiative is a three-phase, continuing effort to evict illicit massage businesses that are advertising on websites like Backpage, CityXGuide and Rubmaps. The first phase consisted of letters sent to 77 landlords, informing them of their tenant’s potentially illegal activity by advertising on illicit websites and urging them to evict the tenant under suspicion.
“The initiative’s first phase has already resulted in 50% of landlords either starting the eviction process, committing to start the eviction process or refusing to renew leases on tenants in question,” states an AG’s office release.
In Clay County, 13 suspected illicit massage businesses have been identified with landlords contacted, said AG Office spokesman Chris Nuelle. Some of the businesses have already been evicted or are in the eviction process. Businesses evicted or given notice of eviction to date are:
• Asian Massage, given 10-day notice at 7711 N. Oak Trafficway in Gladstone;
• Lily Massage, evicted from 5819 NE Antioch Road in Gladstone;
• Lotus Spa, evicted from 4112 NE Vivion Road in Kansas City; and
• Wonder Massage, vacated premises from 6049 NE Antioch Road in Gladstone.
To identify locations of illicit massage businesses, the Attorney General’s Office partnered with Heyrick Research, a nonprofit that scraped known sites that advertise massages and prostitution to build a list of illicit massage businesses in Missouri.
The next two phases of the initiative entail potential lawsuits and/or criminal cases.
“The objective of the initiative is to continually work with landlords to evict illicit massage businesses, but the Attorney General’s Office has been in contact with prosecutors and law enforcement across the state as we move forward in the initiative,” the release states.