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Law on unlicensed masseuses toughened in Baltimore County; Council forbids them to even offer a massage


Prosecutors will have an easier time cracking down on illicit massages after last night's Baltimore County Council vote eliminating a loophole that made it difficult to convict offenders.

The council passed an ordinance allowing police to arrest anyone "offering to administer a massage without a license."

Howard B. Merker, deputy state's attorney, said county codes had prohibited a person from "administering a massage without a license."

But that made it difficult to prosecute an unlicensed masseuse who agreed to perform an illicit service, but changed her mind when she realized the customer was a police officer, Merker said.

Merker said that after a yearlong crackdown by the police, some unlicensed masseuses had begun to realize that if a customer is reluctant to disrobe, they might be dealing with a police officer.

He requested the wording change a few months ago after he saw three or four cases in which women offering massages returned money to undercover officers and could not be convicted.

Baltimore County police support the bill.

Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman, said the department prohibits officers from disrobing or performing sexual acts as part of an investigation, and that an illegal masseuse could sometimes be tipped off by that.

Toohey said police often are tipped off to illegal operations by competitors and by passers-by who see suspicious activity when an unlicensed masseuse sets up shop in a storefront or a small shopping center.

"We get a steady stream of complaints, and this law will help deal with them," Toohey said.

Baltimore County police began cracking down on illegal masseuses in December 1997 when investigators began hearing reports about an increase in sexually oriented activity, Merker said, some of it promoted through newspaper advertisements.

The maximum penalty for county violations is six months in jail or a $1,000 fine, he said.

Pub Date: 2/17/99

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