Hesperia Shutters Mariposa Road Storefront Bordello

Magic Hands Massage could not lay claim to being Hesperia’s swankiest brothel. It had none of the cachet of several other establishments in the City of Progress, such as the two-story six-bedroom house in what has to qualify as one of the city’s most upscale neighborhoods, where faux but convincing Renoirs and Manets grace the walls and a pianist plays Gershwin classics on a grand piano in the plush and tastefully decorated downstairs living room. Nor was it as nice as another set-up in that section of town where some of the equestrian estates and residential agricultural properties that once proliferated in the 73-square-mile city yet remain. And it was not as quaint as the newer home out near the mesa toward Oak Hills that looks for all the world like a simple home in Arizona, right down to the Navajo-themed artwork and decorations.
Nevertheless Magic Hands Massage, operating out of a storefront in Suite I at 12053 Mariposa Road, proximate to the 15 Freeway and Bear Valley Road, was the city’s highest profile, most easily accessible, least complicated and reasonably priced house of ill repute, where one could pull off the freeway for a $40 quickie, get himself taken care of and be back on the way home, less tense and better able to handle the traffic, all inside a half hour.
As it turns out, that high profile and accessibility, together with its ownership’s unwillingness to play by the rules and niceties of civic obeisance, have now put it out of business.
In a staff report authored by Assistant City Manager Mike Blay and Administrative Analyst Tina Bulgarelli and routed to Hesperia’s mayor and city council by City Manager Nils Bentsen, it is related that “On January 14, 2020, code enforcement visited Magic Hands Massage at 12053 Mariposa Rd. Unit I. An inspection was conducted and during that inspection several violations were noted. Firstly, the employee was wearing a miniskirt that showed her buttocks. When asked if the business was open for massage, the employee responded yes. Second, upon interviewing the employee, it was discovered that there was no CAMTC [California Massage Therapy Council] certified massage technician working. CAMTC, or the CA Massage Therapy Council, is a state agency that mandates that all massage businesses have a working CAMTC-certified massage technician or therapist in order to be open. The municipal code also requires this. A citation was issued to the business for this violation.”
According to Blay and Bulgarelli, “A second inspection was done on January 17, 2020. [The] code enforcement [officer] inspected the business and witnessed an adult female wearing lingerie. She was witnessed putting a short robe on and running out the back exit of the business into the alleyway. Code enforcement was able to document this with photographic evidence. A male customer was seen in the business and went and ran to a backroom. None of the employees or the customer would come out of the rooms or speak to code enforcement. A citation was issued for this violation and code enforcement turned the case information over to [the] development services [department] to review for revocation. A third inspection was done on January 27, 2020. Code enforcement inspected the business and the employees were wearing short skirts and dresses and put coats on when the officer entered the business. One of the massage employees had a California Massage Therapy Council license, but had no business license. The officer stated to them that they could not be open without both a valid business license and a California Massage Therapy Council certification even if the business owner possessed a business license. A female business owner came to the business and spoke to the officer. She repeatedly asked the officer if he would like to go for lunch or a coffee and called him ‘honey.’ The officer denied her repeatedly and continued to ask for the required documents. She did not produce a business license or a California Massage Therapy Council license for the officer. A citation was issued for these violations.”
According to the report, the development services department, which is responsible for the issuance and regulation of business licenses, upon review of the evidence elected to revoke Magic Hands Massage’s business license.
According to the report, Magic Hands Massage was in violation of Hesperia Municipal Code Section 5.20.070(N), which requires a massage facility to have a California Massage Therapy Council-licensed massage therapist working during all hours it is open. Hesperia Municipal Code Section 5.20.040(7) authorizes a license revocation if a California Massage Therapy Council-certified massage therapist working in the city has a license that has been suspended or revoked within the previous five years.
Blay and Bulgarelli stated that “the department is electing to revoke per Hesperia Municipal Code Section 5.04.140(A)(5) to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public.”
Magic Hands Massage’s owner, Keith Roberts, appealed the revocation. The appeal came before the city council Tuesday night, March 17.
In analyzing Roberts’ appeal, Blay and Bulgarelli in their report noted that Roberts “was not present at his business during the inspections. He stated in his appeal letter that ‘no massages were being given at the time of inspection.’ Staff believes that to be true in a fashion. Based on the wardrobe of the employees, lingerie, buttocks showing, short robes, and the fact that the male customer ran from code enforcement, staff suspects that Magic Hands Massage is likely a house of prostitution and the employees were likely providing sexual acts.”
According to Blay and Bulgarelli, “The massage community is rife with these types of situations. One of the main goals of the California Massage Therapy Council is to regulate the industry to attempt to reduce this type of activity. The City of Hesperia Municipal Code follows state law and requires that the business owner have a business license, must employ a California Massage Therapy Council massage therapist, and that person must be working all hours they are open. In fact they may not be open if that person is not present and working. The massage therapist, if not an employee of the establishment, is also required to have a business license for any facilities that [he or she] works for, in addition to their California Massage Therapy Council license.”
Tuesday night, the city council heard from Senior Code Enforcement Officer Ernesto Montes, who carried out the January inspections and issued the citations.
Montes related to the council that “On January 14 the sign was open. The door was open. I made contact with the female.” Montes said that he had checked to see whether the massage therapist had a “contact license, which is a state requirement, and for a city business license. When [she was] asked about the license, that could not be provided.”
Communication with the woman working as a “massage therapist” was difficult, Montes said, because she “spoke a different language, and with my limited ability and a translator on my phone, we tried, you know, to get that resolved. But our code says a licensed massage therapist must be present at any time or at all times when that business is open. And there was no licensed massage therapist at the time of that inspection. When we went back the second time on January 17, there was actually two females in there. One of the first questions I asked was ‘Are you open for massage?’ The sign [says] open, the door’s open, and she actually responded ‘Yes, forty dollars for a half hour.’ I said, ‘Okay. Can you please provide me with these licenses, the CAMTC [California Massage Therapy Council] license through the state and the license though the city? At this point, neither one could actually provide those licenses, and at this point they actually ran out of the building. So, I went around the building to see what had happened, and when I came back, when I ran around the building, they actually ran back in, and when I came to the front, I was like, ‘Hello. Hello. Code enforcement.’ You know: ‘Can anybody help me?’ Nobody would ever come back out. But I did notice when I came back around, they had shut the open sign off, but the door was still open. So, I left, and issued the citation.”
Mayor Larry Bird attempted to clarify that Roberts had 72 hours between January 14 and January 17 to respond to the initial citation and “make things correct.”
“I posted citations on the door,” Montes said. “On the 14th, the female that was there actually called her boss on some type of Skype app, and I can see her. We’re having a conversation, and she said, ‘I’ll be there in ten minutes,’ and I waited 20, and she never showed up. She was supposed to clarify these items with me, and she never did on the 14th. She never showed up, and I just posted the citation,” Montes said.
That woman was not whom he dealt with on the 17th, Montes said.
When he could not get anyone to come out after the two people he encountered on the 17th ran around the building and then went back inside, Montes said, he posted another citation on the door.
Montes said he returned ten days later.
“On the 27th [of January] it was the same thing,” Montes said. “I walk in and asked them, ‘Hey, are you guys open for business?’ ‘Yes, I am, forty dollars for a half hour.’ ‘Great. Where’s your licenses?’ The one female that I was talking to was the same female I had talked to on the inspection before.”
On the 27th, Montes indicated, he had contact with Magic Hands Massage’s madam.
“This time, the owner did show up about 20 minutes later,” Montes said. “I explained everything to her, that she needed to get the licenses, bring down the girls, you know, whoever was working for her, and she received a third citation because they couldn’t provide me any documentation on the third inspection, that none of the girls had CAMTC certification on hand or business licenses.”
Mayor Bird asked, “What is the expected response after the first second or third citation?”
“Usually they come in the next day because they cannot be open for business without these certifications,” Montes said. “Here’s three inspections where they were open for business. The signs were open. The doors were open, and I was talking to somebody inside.”
“But no one tried to clear that up between the 14th and the 17th or between the 17th and 27th?” Bird asked.
“Not that I’m aware,” said Montes. “It wasn’t until a day or two after the 27th that somebody finally came into the city building to obtain a business license.”
Bulgarelli said a photo was taken on January 27 of the California Massage Therapy Council-issued license for one of the massage therapists working at Magic Hands Massage she did not reference by name. She said that on March 3 she accessed the California Massage Therapy Council website and sought to verify that license. She said she had a “print screen photo from my computer on March 3 from the CAMTC website showing that person’s registration number clearly stating it is suspended.” As of that evening, Bulgarelli said, “It is still suspended.”
Montes said the girls working at Magic Hands Massage are not employees and “not on the payroll. The owner said they are all individuals.” That they are independent contractors, Montes said, triggers the city’s requirement that they each have her own business license.
Bird verified from Bulgarelli that the “revocation related specifically to them not having the licenses they were supposed to have.”
Because of state and federal orders relating to restrictions on public gatherings because of the coronavirus, the public was essentially excluded from the meeting chamber during the hearing, though the council and city staff members were present.
Sam Tyre, an attorney representing Roberts, was permitted to come into the building to address the council. The microphone to the podium had been cut off prior to Tyre starting his remarks, so the first part of what he said was not audible on the video of the meeting. When the microphone was engaged, Tyre could be heard speaking with regard to the January 14, 2020 inspection.
“There’s allegations there was a massage going on at that point by an unlicensed therapist,” Tyre said. “That’s completely not true.” Tyre said the city had received a packet of documentation relating to the massage parlor and the citations. On page 160 of that packet, Tyre told the council, it was stated that “There were no massages by anybody unlicensed.” With regard to the charge that there was no licensed person on the premises on January 14, the lawyer said “That person was on break. I’m happy to submit an affidavit from that person. That person was not on scene. On the January 17 date, there was a validly licensed massage therapy council person on the premises. The representation I just heard was that as of today the license is no good. There’s no representation that on the date of January 17, 2020 that the license was not good. So the question for the council is: ‘Based on somebody being on a lunch break on one date, is it fair at your discretion to permanently revoke a business license?’ My stance is it is not. It’s not enough.”
He said the city council’s authority with regard to whether to allow Magic Hands Massage to remain in business is “completely discretionary, and it’s too harsh of a penalty for not having somebody there when there’s no massage issue whatsoever by unlicensed techs.”
In discussing the matter, Councilman Bill Holland said, “Without opening Pandora’s box, there was other oddities. You mentioned the person running from the building. [That’s] not usually the case when you make contact with a business, somewhat of a furtive action, you’d agree?”
“Yes,” Montes responded.
Holland asked if there were “other oddities I don’t think necessarily we need to go into that also heightened your suspicions that things weren’t as they should be?”
“Correct,” Montes said.
Holland asked whether the management at Magic Hands had since January demonstrated that “everyone had the correct accreditations?”
“No,” Montes replied.
Bulgarelli clarified Montes’ answer by saying, “Since that time, one person has come in and did have a CAMTC license, and applied for and received a business license for that location.”
Holland asked how many known massage therapists were operating out of the location. He was told it was at least “five different people.”
Councilman Cameron Gregg said, “It sounds to me like the business owner in this case did not do due diligence, in fact, of finding out if the people that were potentially subcontractors underneath that business were actually licensed or certified through the city. We have ordinances in place for these reasons.”
Mayor Bird said, “They should be aware of those when they open a business.”
Bulgarelli indicated that other than having to secure business licenses for each of the massage therapists working as independent contractors, Magic Hands Massage and those working there under the guise of being therapists could have bypassed any further city regulations and scrutiny by ensuring that those serving in the role of therapists had state licenses. She said obtaining a license from the California Massage Therapy Council “affords quite a bit of benefits to massage technicians. If you have your CAMTC license you don’t have to go through the extensive background check with cities. You don’t have to fill out any additional applications and you don’t have to provide your ID. You don’t have to go through any of the rigorous screening that we used to go through with all of the massage technicians in this city. The CAMTC umbrella takes care of all those things. If you show the city an unexpired, non-suspended CAMTC license, we give you a business license.”
In response, Tyre said, “The business license has always been valid. At the beginning, they [the individuals working there as ‘massage therapists’] were non-compliant. Over time they became more compliant. The bottom line is the business is compliant now and your decision, according to the code, is completely discretionary, so I think revocation is too stiff of a request in this particular instance.”
Holland said that if Magic Hands Massage and its independent contractors had straightforwardly responded to the citations posted on January 14 and January 17, the revocation of the business license would likely not have occurred. He said the city had taken the action it did because Magic Hands Massage and those working out of it were “still operating outside the bounds of the law and the municipal code.”
Holland said it was businesses such as Magic Hands Massage that had inspired Hesperia’s late mayor, Russ Blewett, to propose a “problematic business ordinance” that has yet to be formulated or adopted by the city.
Holland made a motion that the revocation was in order based on the evidence presented. That motion was seconded by Councilwoman Brigit Bennington, and passed 5-to-0.
An effort by the Sentinel to obtain a further statement from Tyre yesterday and this morning was unsuccessful.
Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply