Unlicensed Workers, Illegal Living Conditions at Arlington Massage Parlors

Map of massage and bodyworks businesses in Arlington cited by police and health officials for license and safety violations.
Map of massage and bodyworks businesses in Arlington, Mass. cited by police and health officials for license and safety violations.
Chelsea Rice / Boston.com

Four massage and bodyworks businesses, two employees, and one owner and have been cited by the Arlington Board of Health, Arlington Police, and the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure Office of Investigations. The “troubling violations” include unlicensed workers and false advertising. An ongoing investigation is looking into one of the businesses after a customer was found unresponsive in a massage room and later pronounced dead.

The following businesses have received citations and fines totaling $2,200, according to the Town of Arlington:

Body Balance Center:

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Located at 1205 Massachusetts Ave., Body Balance Center advertised therapeutic services in which its employees were neither trained nor certified, such as reflexology and Asian bodywork therapy. Body Balance Center was fined $200 for these violations.

At the time of the inspection, employees Chang Ying Zhao, of Flushing N.Y., and Bi Zhen Zhang, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were found on site without licenses. Both employees were fined $1,000 and ordered to no longer perform massage services. Employees were also living in the establishment, a violation of the business license.

Body Tune:

Located at 828 Massachusetts Ave., officials cited Body Tune for advertising services such as reflexology and Asian bodywork therapy that employees were neither trained nor certified to perform. The owner will have to meet with the Arlington Board of Health to review the regulations around false advertising and employee certification. The business was not fined but will be required to obtain a permit from the town health officials for the services they advertised.

Reliable Bodywork Inc.

A customer last month at Reliable Bodywork was found unresponsive in a massage room and later pronounced dead, according to the Town of Arlington. Located at 178 Broadway, Reliable Bodywork Inc and its owner Fengzhi Liu obtained a state license through a loophole, according to the Town of Arlington, and re-opened despite being denied a permit in Oct. 2013 by the Arlington Board of Health “for a failure to meet minimum standards.” The owner is scheduled to attend at hearing at the Board of Registration of Massage Therapy to discuss the violations. The death of the customer is under an ongoing investigation.

Massage Envy

Located at 1398 Massachusetts Ave., this massage therapy business was ordered to post licenses in clear view.

“All 31 massage therapists who work at the Arlington Massage Envy are licensed,” said Marc Cannon, owner of Massage Envy Arlington. “It is extremely unfortunate that we have made it onto this list due to the fact that two of our licenses were not displayed because their frames were broken. We follow all industry and state regulations and have never had an issue during our six years in business.”

Each of these businesses is still open unless the state Board of Registration for Massage Therapy takes action on the citations. The license board requires at least 650 hours of study, including academic courses in anatomy and physiology, pathology, ethics, kinesiology, and massage theory and technique. Massage therapists must also complete 100 hours of unpaid clinical experience or internships.

“It is important that inspections are conducted as a team to address cross-jurisdictional issues that arise and to continue to keep ahead of issues that may come up,” Arlington Police Chief Frederick Ryan said in a prepared statement. “We also want to work closely with our state partners to make sure they understand the urgency of the situation.”

Arlington health officials, police, and the state licensure office have conducted these health and safety checks multiple times per year since 2013. Six businesses have since closed as a result in Arlington.

“These periodic checks are performed to ensure that massage and bodywork facilities are operating in a safe manner and that they are not performing illegal or unlicensed services,” Director of Health and Human Services Christine Bongiorno said in a statement.