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FARGO — A Fargo man is on a mission to expose local massage parlors for what he believes they are — fronts for commercial sex and human trafficking. Keith Coates, 26, said he's visited four such parlors in the metro area, all with the same result — an unmistakable offer from the masseuse for a sexual service in exchange for money, which he declined each time.
In addition, he said he has what he believes is proof, in the form of a text message, that human trafficking is happening at one of the parlors. Moorhead police said they also couldn't comment. A report by the anti-trafficking group Polaris estimates more than 9, illicit massage businesses are hiding in plain sight in strip malls and along busy corridors in the U. While some women at these businesses may choose to sell sex, the report says, evidence suggests many thousands of women engaging in commercial sex there are actually victims of human trafficking — being controlled through debts, psychological manipulation and threat of violence from their traffickers.
According to Polaris, most trafficked women have recently arrived from China or South Korea and are under extreme financial pressure. In , The Forum visited all known massage parlors in the Fargo-Moorhead metro area. Since then, one in Moorhead has closed, while two new parlors have opened in Fargo, for a total of at least eight such establishments. The Forum is not naming any of the businesses or their owners because they have not been publicly implicated by authorities or criminally charged. During the visits last year, The Forum found employees who spoke little to no English and requirements that customers pay up front to receive services.
Some offer a "table shower," where the customer is washed while lying down, a service not typical of other massage businesses. Coates said his concerns about trafficking were borne from a job at a local homeless shelter where he saw "very shady stuff. He later decided to become a massage therapist and enrolled in a local massage school.
There, Coates said, he heard stories about illicit massage businesses in town, but doubted they were true. Coates said his first visit was to a Moorhead parlor a few years ago, and subsequent visits to other parlors, the most recent in Fargo in August, played out the same way.
Typically, the masseuse offers only a small towel for draping, inappropriate in a legal massage setting, he said. In sharp contrast, at Massage Envy where Coates works, he said clients are covered with sheets or blankets, except for the body part being massaged. At a parlor, once lying face down on a table with the small towel covering only his glutes, the masseuse would take his underwear off without asking, he said. They would do a full body massage, then start rubbing his inner thighs to see if he would react. After he was "flipped over," the employee's hands would move back to the inner thighs, even touching his genitals.
In each case, when he declined the sexual offer, the masseuse abruptly left the room. Coates said during his massage parlor visits, he saw only male customers waiting, usually ages 55 and older. He said he thinks men use parlors because it seems safer than hiring a prostitute, but he wishes they understood the larger picture. Aside from the sexual favors aspect, Coates maintains he has evidence of human trafficking in at least one Fargo massage parlor. He went so far as to befriend one who turned out to be an owner. Coates is undeterred, and thinks Fargo can set a good example for North Dakota and beyond, by taking a tougher stance.
He realizes there also could be some risk, in sticking his neck out for this cause, but says it's worth it. Trending Articles. News Fargo man blows the whistle on massage parlors, says he declined sexual favors at 4 businesses. Written By: Robin Huebner pm, Sep. Keith Coates of Fargo shows a text message exchange with a local massage parlor owner, which he says may be an indication of human trafficking taking place there.
Keith Coates of Fargo talks about massage parlors he visited in the Fargo-Moorhead area, where he says employees offered sexual services in exchange for money, which he declined. He said he believes the businesses are fronts for commercial sex and human trafficking. Suggested Articles. Traffic and Construction. Businesses To Follow.Sex massage west Fargo
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