COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri's attorney general says two Columbia operations were among the illicit massage businesses shut down in a program that uses landlords to secure evictions.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office said in a news release that 17 such operations have been shut down since the Hope Initiative started in October to combat human trafficking. Another 16 are on the verge of being evicted, Schmitt's office said in a news release.
Among the 17 businesses already closed are Foot Massage and Shogun Sauna, both in Columbia, said Chris Nuelle, a spokesman for Schmitt's office.
The Hope Initiative targets massage parlors that advertise on online services used for illicit massage listings. Schmitt's office sent letters to 77 landlords pressing them to evict those tenants.
Schmitt's office said 33 of the illegal operations have been evicted, their landlords did not renew their lease or eviction is pending.
The attorney general says illicit massage operations are often tied to human trafficking.
“With this initiative we want to make Missouri the most inhospitable state in the country to those who seek to operate illicit massage businesses or engage in human trafficking,” Schmitt said in the release.