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Landlords stalling closure of illicit massage parlors, sheriff says

4 out of 7 illicit massage parlors have been shut down in Martin County
Posted at 7:27 PM, May 29, 2024

STUART, Fla. — The Martin County sheriff says landlords are hindering efforts to close all illicit massage parlors in the region.

Sheriff William Snyder said deputies made over 20 arrests in the past five years at seven parlors in the county. Four closed after officials worked with landlords, but other property owners aren't cooperating, he said.

"Of the seven we identified, some landlords are cooperating. The landlords had evicted the tenants," Snyder said. "We have a couple that are trying not to do it, but they have a choice. If we tell them there's a criminal enterprise, prostitution, going on in their strip mall and they don't evict knowingly, we're going to put them jail."

Snyder said he's giving landlords a form explaining tenants violate state laws on prostitution and human trafficking. The undercover investigations began in 2019.

"These probes take time; they're labor-intensive," he said. "It has taken a few years, but we think we identified every illicit parlor here. Most closed, and the remaining couple will close, or landlords face criminal charges."

Officials identified the parlors through complaints from people solicited for prostitution during legitimate massages and nearby businesses disturbed by the activity, the sheriff's office said.

Edward Cagliano, who owns a restaurant near a closed parlor, said he saw law enforcement raid Green Massage four or five times. He wasn't surprised by repeated violations given its late hours and questionable behavior.

"Kind of in shock," Cagliano said. "But after a few times, we're more surprised it continues to reopen, business as usual."

The parlor closed about two months ago. He hopes a legitimate business replaces it. Another neighbor said prostitution charges weren't surprising since people consistently entered and exited the back door.

The three suspected illicit parlors are Asian Sports Massage, Massage Orchid and Le Mandarin Massage & Spa.

County records show Daffodil LLC owns Le Mandarin's property. State records list Sally S. Benson of Lantana as the business manager. Benson told WPTV she was unaware of any investigation. The sheriff's office made three arrests there.

Indian River Holdings LLC and Emerald Jade Holdings LLC own Asian Sports Massage and Massage Orchid's property, records show. John Martino manages those firms, listing addresses in New York and Stuart, including 309 SE Osceola St., home of Florida Commercial Realty.

The sheriff urges anyone aware of suspected prostitution at massage parlors to notify authorities.