A Kansas City spokeswoman for the FBI says the agency can neither confirm or deny an investigation into Joplin massage parlors. But Joplin police are releasing some key details. Those details, few as they are, shock many residents.
Michael Gasper says he's legally blind. But he says he still routinely noticed a provocatively-dressed woman outside near Royal Massage, 1522 South Main Street.
"She was puffing on her cigarette. Everything she had on was kind of short," says Gasper.
Gasper lives nearby, and says whenever he would walk past Royal Massage, his service dog would get rambunctious.
"I have no control over the dog when he gets like that. So I never paid attention if something was going on in there. Maybe the dog knew and I didn't," says Gasper.
Maybe Gasper is right.
Joplin police say they helped the FBI serve three search warrants last month.
"You try to serve those on a time frame, just so we can make sure we get them all covered at once. That takes a lot of help and a lot of people in doing that," says Sgt. Rusty Rives with the Joplin Police Department.
Besides Royal Massage, there's the Sunny Spa at 801 East 15th Street, and Golden Massage at 1237 South Rangeline Road. According to Joplin police, the FBI suspects illegal activities at these three businesses that appear to be now closed. A Google search for Golden Spa included 18-year-old female escorts.
Raynard Talamon, a nearby resident to Royal Massage on South Main Street, says, "I don't understand how they're doing it and keeping it so low-down!"
A worker at a business near Golden Massage, who didn't want to be identified, says women at this massage parlor never seemed to go home. She suspected the female workers lived at the massage parlor.
A towel warmer can be seen looking through the windows of Golden Massage. Sunny Spa appears empty. Some towels and cushioned chairs are among the items still left at Royal Massage, where nearby residents are still in shock.
"We walk up and down this street! We jog this street! Never, ever paid attention to that. And they never caused a lot of traffic over here," says Talamon.
"When you start looking at criminal activity, there's not a lot that's surprising. I don't think anybody expects it. But I don't know that it's really surprising, either," says Rives.
The listed owner of the massage parlor on South Main Street also owns the parlor on East 15th Street. The owner is a woman from California who told us by telephone, through her interpreter husband, she didn't know about the suspected illegal activities.
A different owner of the massage parlor on South Rangeline Road is also from California. We have been unable to reach her.
Federal authorities can make arrests in Joplin. Joplin police say they haven't made arrests, and don't know if the FBI has made arrests.
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