State investigators served cease-and-desist orders on ten employees who were practicing massage therapy without a license at Macon businesses, the Georgia Secretary of State's office said.
The Secretary of State's Office of Inspector General said it issued the orders as part of a joint sting operation carried out with the Macon Police Department over several hours Wednesday night.
Macon police said they arrested two workers, at To Your Health Massage at 1420 Riverside Dr., and Sedona Tanning Salon at 1922 Riverside Dr.
Chae Hyeon Joo, of Sedona Tanning and Chun Sook Lee, of To Your Health, were charged with sexual battery. Lee was also charged with prostitution and Joo with keeping a house of prostitution, according to Macon Police Capt. Eric Walker.
Macon police and state investigators visited 12 massage businesses Wednesday night.
Capt. Jimmy Barbee said five of the businesses were closed and five others did not offer sex for money.
He said the five businesses they visited that were not open were: Tokyo Health Spa, 2790 Riverside Dr.; Ultimate Massage, 3355 Pio Nono Ave.; Sauna House, 3457 Pio Nono Ave.; Country Hill, 4378 Pio Nono Ave.; and Friendship Health Spa and Massage, 3706 Mercer University Dr.
He said five businesses visited by undercover police officers did not offer sexual acts: Hong Kong Spa, 1550 Rocky Creek Rd.; Emerald Spa, 3770 Bloomfield Village Dr.; Angel Spa, 1672 North Atwood Dr.; China Doll, 1091 Eisenhower Parkway and Blue Sky Spa, 628 Shurling Dr.
"The businesses were chosen at random," said Barbee.
The cease-and-desist orders were signed by unlicensed massage therapists at five businesses. The orders state that the offender voluntary agrees not to offer any service that requires a massage therapy license.
According to the order, each violation subjects the worker to a $500 fine, and the order will be part of the record if the worker applies for a massage therapy license.
Capt. Barbee said investigators used an interpreter to be sure the employees understood what they were signing. Many of the workers had Korean surnames.
In the past two years, Macon police and the Bibb County Sheriff's Office have arrested dozens of women accused of providing sex for hire at several massage parlors.
Some of those businesses have been raided several times but remain in business. Local officials say it's hard to shut down those businesses, even after multiple convictions.
"If you want to control this problem, then you do it with licensing, you do it with money, the same thing other counties have done, make it part of a tougher ordinance," said Barbee.
On March 17, the State Senate unanimously approved a bill that would impose tougher penalties on massage parlors that operate without licenses.
Under the proposed law (Senate Bill 364), the offense would become a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine for a third offense. The offender's license would be suspended for at least a year for the first offense and revoked on the third offense.
The bill was sponsored by Macon-area state senators Cecil Staton, a Republican, and Robert Brown, a Democrat.
Staton said he was acting at the request of Central Georgia law enforcement officials.
The bill awaits action in the Georgia House.
(Contributing: Associated Press)