Fate of Pawtucket spas involved in prostitution sting remains unclear

Blackstone Valley

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Both Pawtucket spas involved in a prostitution sting last week remained closed Monday as the investigation continues.

On Friday, 13 women were arrested between two locations, Harmony Spa on Benefit Street and Far East Acupressure on East Street, though not all of them are accused of receiving money for sex acts.

Rep. Carlos Tobon has worked for years on legislation aimed at trying to regulate bodywork spas.

“It’s disheartening,” he said. “We don’t need the tinted windows and wonder what’s behind them.”

Back in 2016, lawmakers approved legislation allowing cities and towns to regulate body works spas, but Tobon said Pawtucket’s bodyworks ordinance is not currently being enforced.

Both Harmony Spa and Far East sued over the Pawtucket ordinance, in 2017. The city prevailed in Superior Court in 2017 when Judge Richard Licht declared the ordinance constitutional. The two spas are appealing to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

A spokesperson for the city of Pawtucket tells Eyewitness News the ordinance is not being enforced in the city right now because of pending litigation related to the ordinance.

“Once this matter is resolved, we will move forward with the licensing requirement for the ordinance,” the spokesperson said.

The Supreme Court says otherwise, however. According to a court spokesperson, no motions have been filed to put the ordinance on hold.

Pawtucket police continue to investigate the spas following the arrests. Police tell Eyewitness News no Johns will be arrested or charged in this case.

“We did not have any evidence that any of the men present, when we executed our search warrants, had paid for sex,” Detective Sergeant Timothy Graham said in a statement.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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