13 charged following probe of spas in Rhode Island

PAWTUCKET, R.I. (AP) — Police in Pawtucket say more than a dozen women have been charged following an investigation of two massage parlors in the city.

Investigators say they received complaints from residents and local businesses about alleged prostitution at Harmony Spa and Far East Acupuncture.

The Providence Journal reports all 13 women were arraigned Friday on misdemeanor charges of working as unlicensed massage therapists. Four also faced misdemeanor prostitution charges and three were charged with pandering or permitting prostitution, which is a felony.

The defendants entered not guilty pleas and were released on personal recognizance.

Defense attorney John Ruginski said there was no human trafficking involved and none of the women were being forced to work.

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The spas and the city have fought a long-standing legal battle over the licensing of massage parlors.

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