Rep. Sanfelippo to re-introduce bill to shut down massage parlors where sexual favors are offered

Rep. Joe Sanfelipp

NEW BERLIN -- Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin called local business owners involved in human trafficking a bunch of bad actors. He has proposed legislation that would shut the businesses down for good.

"We see it all over the place," said Rep. Sanfelippo.

Rep. Sanfelippo said he plans to introduce a bill that would curb sexual favors being offered at massage parlors for an additional charge.

"This has been an ongoing problem that we've had here in the city of West Allis," said Rep. Sanfelippo.

Jing Zhang

Additional investigations uncovered similar problems at massage parlors in Waukesha, Franklin, Greenfield and New Berlin, where prosecutors said Jing Zhang was running a prostitution ring at Asian Massage and Reflexology on Greenfield Avenue. When undercover operatives went in for $60 massages, they were met with handsy and sexually aggressive masseuses.

"It took well over a year to close that business down," said Rep. Sanfelippo.

Rep. Sanfelippo said that's because local municipalities don't have the ability to go into these businesses when there's a problem, because masseuses are licensed by the state. The bill would change that.

West Allis Deputy Police Chief Christopher Botsch issued this statement:

"Human trafficking is a crime that occurs behind the scenes in cities of all sizes across this country.  While human trafficking goes unnoticed by many, its effects are devastating to its victims.  We recognize that many massage parlors operate as legitimate businesses; however, this new law will provide additional tools for local law enforcement to identify and address businesses who provide illegal services.  This new law will help municipalities in Wisconsin to better monitor the industry and engage with businesses who participate  in illegal activity.  In doing so, we may be able to deter human trafficking in these types of businesses throughout Wisconsin."

While the bill was originally introduced in 2018, time ran out before it made it to the Senate.

Rep. Sanfelippo said he is confident it will pass and bring change.

"This is as much of a bill to not only put the bad actors out of business, but to protect the women who are being forced into this trade," said Rep. Sanfelippo.

Meanwhile, Rep. Sanfelippo said he wanted to stress that a majority of massage therapists and their business are "above board, and do a great job" in Wisconsin.

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