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But Persinger dismissed that, saying only 54 schools of about 1,300 nationally are accredited.A school needn’t be accredited to teach massage therapy.
Neither Feng Huai or Fung Fa Wai show up as licensed massage therapists in Iowa, according to Tony Alden, board executive at the Department of Public Health's Bureau of Professional Licensure.
But the board ultimately decided to refer the complaints about Lotus Spa to the Polk County attorney for further investigation.
The Watchdog probe found more than two dozen businesses in the Des Moines area were trying to lure customers with suggestive photos and advertising on sites such as and Craigslist, which have been used for sex trafficking and prostitution.
A national human trafficking prevention group, Polaris, identified Des Moines as a top concern after monitoring sex solicitation on paid sites as well.
Lee Rood's Reader's Watchdog column helps Iowans get answers and accountability from public officials, the justice system, businesses and nonprofits.
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Alden said he does not believe that code is legal under the state’s massage therapy law because it unfairly punishes some legal, licensed practitioners.
Others have suggested the illicit sex trade in the industry could be greatly reduced if massage therapists were required to attend accredited schools, as states such as Alabama and Connecticut.
But Alden said this week state leaders would be loath to enact regulatory roadblocks that hinder legitimate businesses from opening.“Ultimately, this is criminal activity, and it’s up to law enforcement and the general public to report it,” he said.
The massage board does require school transcripts and primary source documents to screen applicants for state massage therapy licenses, and applicants are asked to self-report any discipline taken against them outside Iowa.
Documents filed in the case included interviews with children who said they took out ads on after they were forced into prostitution.