Condemned Northampton spas unlicensed, fined by state as police probe into alleged criminal conduct continues



Last modified: Friday, March 06, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — Two spas condemned by local health officials for unsanitary conditions last week were not licensed to operate in Massachusetts and have been issued $1,000 fines, according to the state Division of Professional Licensure.

One of those businesses apparently has been operating for years in a high-profile commercial location and the other in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The spas — Revival Body Work & Massage at 241 King St. and Relax and Wellness Asian Massage at 6 Market St. — are among four bodywork businesses under investigation for alleged criminal activity, including allegations of offering sexual contact for money, according to Northampton police.

The Northampton Health Department routed a public records request this week for its inspection records of the businesses to the mayor and city attorney. Their responses are pending.

Health code violations were found only at the condemned businesses, and Health Department orders were issued to business and property owners Monday with a 30-day deadline to remedy violations, Northampton Director of Public Health Merridith O’Leary said.

The Market Street property is owned by Janet E. Gezork of Montague, who could not be reached by phone or at her Market Street office Wednesday. The King Street property, in the Potpourri Plaza, is owned by Northampton Coolidge LLC, a company managed by Theodore S. Sannella of White Plains, N.Y. He referred comment to a property manager who could not be reached.

Two other spas — Pine Spa at 176 Pine St. and Therapeutic Body Works at 44 Maple St. — were cited for minor electrical and fire code violations, but were allowed to remain open after inspections involving local, state and federal authorities. Both businesses have up-to-date business certificates on file at City Hall and valid massage therapy licenses, according to the Division of Professional Licensure’s Board of Registration of Massage Therapy.

The state board did issue an advisory to Therapeutic Body Works, listed under city records as Florence Wellness Spa, asking that it comply with local Board of Health regulations, according to the Division of Professional Licensure. The business was not cited for health code violations, however.

Investigation continues

Northampton Police Capt. Jody Kasper said police continue to investigate all four establishments and have made no arrests. The law enforcement probe began in mid-April 2014 when city detectives took a report of alleged sexual contact for money at one local bodywork business that police have declined to identify. That report then led police to investigate several other bodywork businesses across the city that were “operating similarly,” Kasper said.

“We have not found any connection between the four,” Kasper said Tuesday. “We’re looking into crimes that may or may not have occurred in the establishments and we’re open to where that may lead us.”

The investigation has included use of surveillance, online information gathering and interviews with “witnesses and victims,” police said.

As for the two spas shut down Friday, there is evidence to suggest that Revival Bodywork & Massage in Suite 114 at the Potpourri Plaza and Relax and Wellness Asian Massage had employees living at those businesses, both of which were deemed unfit for human habitation, according to local officials.

“I think that there were things there that suggested that,” Northampton Assistant Building Commissioner Chuck Miller said. “They were cooking in all of them and beds there.”

A business certificate on file lists Yeng Sheng Li of Holyoke as an operator of Revival Body Work & Massage, though the state, which regulates massage facilities, has no license on record for the business. The spa was fined $1,000.

‘Bodywork’ exemptions

State law requires those practicing massage or massage therapy to be licensed with the Division of Professional Licensure’s Board of Registration of Massage Therapy. However, there are many “bodywork” exemptions in the law that do not require the state license, including reflexology, Shiatsu and various kinds of Asian bodywork therapy, to name some.

On its city business certificate received in September 2011, Revival Bodywork & Massage lists “service” as its type of business.

City officials found that the King Street spa had violated the fire code with improper storage of flammables and by dead-bolting an exit during business hours, according to the Fire Department. In addition, a shower had been installed in the facility without a permit, which is a violation of the plumbing code.

There are no local or state records with contacts on file for Relax and Wellness Asian Massage at 6 Market St., in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places and adjacent to a law office.

Relax and Wellness Asian Massage was condemned by local health officials and also fined $1,000 by state regulators under the name Renew You Spa, Jayda Leder-Luis, a Division of Professional Licensure spokeswoman said Wednesday. The Renew You Spa name was provided to a state investigator by employees last week.

“Neither Renew nor Relax were in our database,” Leder-Luis said.

In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents cited the business for violating the state workers’ compensation law. City officials said it is not clear how many employees were working at the two condemned spas.

Code violations

Pine Spa’s massage therapy license is held by Jinhai Liu of Flushing, N.Y., who is the only person authorized to conduct massage or massage therapy work at the business, located in a small commercial plaza on Pine Street, according to state regulators.

Contacted Tuesday in New York, Jinhai Liu said he has a license to conduct massage work at Pine Spa. The facility’s business certificate was issued in January 2014.

Therapeutic Body Works, or Florence Wellness Spa, was cited for fire code violations involving the improper use of extension cords and power strips to power equipment. State regulators say the spa’s facility license is held by Lixin Sun of Amherst, and state records also show that Feng Ling Liu of East Longmeadow has a license to conduct massage therapy at the business.

Feng Ling Liu signed for and received a Northampton business certificate for Florence Wellness Spa at 44 Maple St. in June 2014, suggesting it has only been open for about eight months, according to city records. The certificate lists its type of business as “body work & reflexology.”

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.


 


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