Friday, September 21, 2012
More Florida Anti-Human Trafficking News: Safe Massage or No Massage
Governor Rick Scott Joins Law Enforcement and Anti-Human Trafficking Groups to Suspend Licenses of 81 Massage Therapists
Governor asks Department of Health to Conduct Review of Massage Therapy Schools
Tampa, Fla.- Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong, state and local law enforcement officials and anti-human trafficking groups to announce swift action to suspend the licenses of 81 massage therapists who appear to have obtained their licenses fraudulently. Dr. Armstrong signed 81 emergency suspension orders (ESOs), suspending the licenses of massage therapists who are a part of ongoing investigations.
The Florida Department of Health, along with the Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force began a joint investigation of several Florida massage establishments earlier this year. During their investigation, more than 200 therapists appeared to have obtained their massage licenses through fraud. The investigations reveled that some massage therapists paid between $10,000-$15,000 to obtain fraudulent college certificates and transcripts, which they then submitted to DOH as part of their licensure applications.
Governor Scott also directed Dr. Armstrong to lead a seven day review of massage schools in order to make sure they are complying with all licensure requirements and regulations.
Gov. Scott said, “I want to make one message very clear - if you want to break the law, if you want to prey on the vulnerable, if you are in any way in the business of human trafficking, you do not want to do it in Florida. Our justice system here is thorough and swift. We will find you out and we will punish you to the fullest extent of the law. The Department of Health, all of our state agencies and every task force here and across our state are all working toward one goal - to keep our communities safe. We will make that goal a reality for the people of Florida.”
“Our close partnerships with agencies will help us stop those who illegally obtain licenses and threaten the health of our citizens and visitors,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Armstrong. “The Department will continue to work with federal, state, and local law enforcement to ensure the safety of Floridians. Fraudulent licensing activity in this or any profession will not be tolerated in Florida.”
“The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work tirelessly to protect the victims of Human Trafficking. Incidents such as these will not be tolerated,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. “Our agency will work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement to apprehend and punish violators of these acts against some of Florida’s most vulnerable victims.”
“The Department of Children and Families has helped implement legislation that attempts to break the cycle of human trafficking and has taken the lead in providing support for the victims of this heinous crime, giving them the chance to pursue a rich and independent life," Wilkins said. "We will continue to work with our state and local partners, led by our front-line staff, to identify these victims and the perpetrators who are exploiting our children."
The Department of Health licenses massage therapists, among 40 other professions, and approved massage therapy schools are dually regulated by the Florida Department of Education and DOH.