Many Rockford residents thought a massage business in their neighborhood was a hub for human trafficking.
That’s because it posted ads on a particular website that’s long been associated with the illegal activity.
“At the time, they were condemned for not being in conformance with city regulations related to the operation of the facility,” said Todd Cagnoni, the Rockford City Administrator. “Specifically related to proper licensing with the state of Illinois.”
Cagnoni referencing a massage parlor on Prospect Street.
Sanford Therapeutic Massage was shut down in late September for multiple city code violations.
It re-opened for just one day in October only to be shut down a second time for having unlicensed massage therapists.
“There are certain businesses that we’ve received a number of complaints on, and that they were operating with sex trafficking, or advertising on websites that would indicate that they were marketing for sex trafficking,” said Cagnoni.
Cagnoni says Sanford advertised its services on websites like backpage.com, a site that’s been under fire for years as being linked to human trafficking.
It sparked fear among neighbors that the massage parlor engaged in human trafficking, something Sanford has never been convicted of.
Still, it prompted city leaders to ban online advertisements that can be considered in appropriate, as well as requiring city and state licensing, and routine inspections.
“With the new ordinance that has passed city council, it would be nearly impossible for any illicit activity to [legally] exist within a massage establishment within the city of Rockford,” said 2nd Ward Alderman Jonathan Logemann.
Logemann says he supports small businesses setting up shop in Rockford.
He’s hopeful Sanford Therapeutic can repair its reputation with the neighborhood so everyone can put this all behind them.
“I think any business that’s worth it’s salt connects with the neighbors,” said Logemann. “And the neighborhood and the residents in support of a stronger neighborhood and a stronger community.”
Sanford Therapeutic’s owners declined to comment for this story.
On Thursday night, the city will host a meeting with the massage parlor and residents.
That will be held at the massage parlor starting at 7:30 pm.