Massaging the details

Folsom masseuse can’t get back in Sac County’s good graces five years after prostitution sting

There was no happy ending last week for a massage therapist looking to resume work years after being shut down for running a house of ill fame.

Rebecca Martinez lost her special-business license to practice massage in unincorporated Sacramento County in 2007, when two separate sheriff’s department prostitution stings discovered more than shoulder rubs occurring at her two locations. Martinez wasn’t charged with solicitation herself, but she did face allegations of running a house of prostitution and violating several provisions of a county ordinance governing massage establishments.

She was ultimately only convicted of failing to keep a personnel register of her employees and having locked doors on the premises—both an ordinance no-no—but those charges were dismissed in a plea deal that saddled her with three years of probation and 10 days on the sheriff’s work program.

After prostitutes were busted at her Marconi Avenue establishment six months later, Martinez’s work detail was upped to 45 days.

Last week on September 11, a nervous, soft-spoken Martinez was unable to convince county supervisors to hear her request for license reinstatement, or that she had mended her ways five years after being run out of town.

This decision, meanwhile, highlights county officials’ complicated relationship with vice and also an unfolding effort to rewrite its ordinance on some adult-related businesses but not others.

Martinez is currently licensed to operate a massage business in the city of Folsom. According to city officials, Martinez opened a location at 705 Gold Lake Drive in March 2008, though that license only remained active until July of that year. Martinez got a new business license for a location on Folsom Boulevard this year. Folsom city spokeswoman Sue Ryan said that license was paid through 2013.

Despite turning over a new leaf in a new town, Deputy County Counsel John E. Reed said the only thing Martinez could argue in her favor was “the passage of time.”

“She’s essentially asking for a second chance,” Reed told supervisors. “It’s the position of the sheriff that she’s already had that second chance.”

According to a report from Detective Mike Wright, of the sheriff’s department’s Special Investigations Bureau, neighboring businesses first complained of suspected sexual activity at Martinez’s Relaxing Hands establishment in February 2007. When undercover officers went into the Fulton Avenue business later that month, Wright states that an unlicensed massage therapist employed by Martinez took off her blouse and bra after agreeing to perform a sex act for money on an undercover cop. A second employee and Martinez, who arrived when the operation was concluding, were also arrested at the scene.

Despite her arrest, Martinez was granted a “heavily conditioned” license for a Marconi Avenue establishment later that same year, Reed explained. That August, a second sting operation concluded with the same results: An unlicensed practitioner employed by Martinez and with a history of prostitution propositioned an undercover officer.

At both stings, male customers told sheriff’s officers they were specifically there to receive sexual favors in return for money, Reed said. One alleged he had received sexual favors from Martinez herself in the past, though Martinez denied this at last week’s public hearing.

The petite Martinez, dressed in a plum-colored blouse with a thick rope of jewelry clinking around her neck, struggled through last week’s testimony, speaking in a halting murmur and toying with her hair while dancing around the sordid details. She downplayed her role in the illicit activities that reportedly went on in her two establishments.

Gently prodded by Supervisor Susan Peters whether the allegations were true, Martinez replied: “I did hire people—unlicensed. I wasn’t of knowledge of what happened and why they—you know—things that happened, but the things that they did—um—convict me of—taking my license away—I understand that it was a locked door. I should have not had the door locked. And a personnel register I was supposed to have.

“You know, I learned a lot from this experience.”

Not enough, evidently, to suit county officials, who unanimously rejected her request to be one of approximately 300 licensed practitioners in the unincorporated county. The sheriff’s department, which performs background checks on anyone seeking special-business licenses and is responsible for approving or disapproving new ones, denied 19 massage applications last year.

Calls to Martinez went unreturned. The phone number she provided to the county in a letter seeking license reinstatement was answered by a man who said he didn’t know her.

While Folsom police confirmed Martinez hadn’t drawn their attention at her Gold Lake Drive location, the address she currently has listed on her business license belongs to a suite of offices on Folsom Boulevard, none of them dealing with massage therapy.

The AppointmentCity website still lists Martinez’s Advanced Bodyworks on Gold Lake Drive. The listing advertises deep-tissue, Swedish, sports and therapeutic massages, but it’s the green check mark beside “other” that might start piquing the wrong kind of curiosity.