The state of Florida announced Wednesday that 81 fraudulent message therapy licenses within the state had been suspended, citing a possible link between the fraudulent licenses and human trafficking, news sources indicate. One of those licenses reportedly belonged to massage therapist Lin Hu, who operated out of Tampa Bay area. No arrests were made regarding any of the suspensions, though legal charges may come forward as the investigation continues. Sources say the crackdown was part of an initiative to eliminate human trafficking related to illegal businesses.
Reports show that the state of Florida has specific requisitions in regards to obtaining a massage therapy license. This includes completing a medical error avoidance course, passing at least on certified exam, and providing records that show approval from a massage therapy college. The strict regulations prevent superfluous certifications from being given out.
Reports say that executives from the Clearwater and South Florida Human Trafficking Task Forces, with the aid of the state’s Department of Health, contributed to the investigation that led to the suspensions. During their examination, investigators say they discovered that over 200 practitioners had acquired their licenses under fraudulent pretenses. While details of the report are still largely unavailable, the detectives alluded that the therapists filed duplicates of genuine records they received from a massage academy in Florida. However, officials were unwilling to name the school during their announcement on Wednesday, as the investigation is still in the works.
A spokesperson affiliated with the investigation explained to the press that one particular administrator at the unidentified academy was behind the fraudulent records; that administrator was left unnamed as well. According to reports, the administrator used his position at the school to sell the forged transcripts to the supposed therapists for as much as $15,000 apiece. As of now, it does appear as though any other administrators were aware of the illicit activity.
Sources say that these recent suspensions were part of a larger initiative to stop human trafficking in the state of Florida. During the announcement, investigators explained that they believe illegitimate businesses are often hubs for human traffickers. These traffickers allegedly use the businesses to secretly move persons from place to place or even force them into unwarranted labor.
Detectives were unable to provide information about how exactly the 81 suspended licenses tied in with human trafficking or any other illegal activity in general. “We don’t know about that at this point,” a spokesperson from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department said. “This is a way to chip away at it. This is a first step in an overall process where we’re trying to effectively deal with and eradicate human trafficking. So this is one step in that process.”
Human trafficking presents a huge problem for communities all over the state. Criminals often force people (most often women and children) into this black market for unlicensed labor, sexual services, and slavery. By using illegitimate business fronts, traffickers are more easily able to employ workers without providing sufficient salaries or any salary at all. It also makes it easier for them to avoid common workplace regulations, especially in regards to sexual-related services.