A Billings spa has been closed, and criminal charges may be filed after its business license was refused on suspicion of conducting an illegal massage business.
Sky Spa is Billings’ eighth massage establishment to be refused a license.
All of this comes after the Billings City Council passed an ordinance last year with the goal of combating human trafficking and forced prostitution.
The city revoked the license after nine infractions were discovered. The owners did not file an appeal, cannot renew for another year, and are no longer in business in Billings.
“The illegal massage business often has blacked-out windows, and their front doors are frequently barred,” said Penny Ronning, co-founder of the Yellowstone Area Human Trafficking Task Force. “They’re usually open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
She claims that some of the employees at these spas may be licensed massage therapists.
“They’re still being used, sexually exploited,” Ronning added. “They’ll still be abused that way because the massage is only the beginning of what the sexual exploitation will entail.”
Ronning said that the closing of Sky Spa at 901 S. 32nd St. W. puts a stop to human trafficking and sexual exploitation at that location.
“To the best of my knowledge,” Ronning stated, “she brought in girls, female labor victims from various states.” “And, as is customary in Billings, the victims will be from other states. It’s unusual for someone from Billings to be here.”
A law enacted in April 2021 resulted in Sky Spa/massage Kim’s being denied a license by the city’s code enforcement.
“We requested code enforcement to go out and perform an inspection to make sure the facility is zoned correctly and fits the standards of the law,” said Andy Zoeller, finance director for the city of Billings.
According to Zoeller, code enforcement discovered nine breaches.
The premises being utilized as a dwelling, closed internal doors, all windows obscured by fabric or impediment, and no certified massage therapist on-site are among the nine breaches.
“The legislation has been fairly successful in actually closing down or moving unlawful enterprises out of municipal bonds,” Zoeller added.
“The greatest human trafficking closure in Billings has occurred in the last year as a result of this massage and spa facility license,” Ronning said.
And, according to Ronning, it might be more than just company closures.
“They’re facing criminal accusations,” she said.
Q2 News attempted to contact the owner of Sky Spa but received no response.
Meanwhile, Ronning claims that the FBI had a list of 17 illegal massage shops, with some closing willingly, seven being refused licenses and three or four more on the verge of being shut down.