The state has suspended the licenses of 81 massage therapists as part of an ongoing investigation into human trafficking.
Gov. Rick Scott went to Tampa Wednesday afternoon to join State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong who signed the emergency suspension orders on licenses that were allegedly obtained fraudulently.
Scott also directed Armstrong to head a seven-day review of massage schools to ensure they are complying with licensure requirements and regulations.
“I want to make one message very clear -- if you want to break the law, if you want to prey on the vulnerable, if you are in any way in the business of human trafficking, you do not want to do it in Florida,” Scott stated in a release.
“Our justice system here is thorough and swift. We will find you out and we will punish you to the fullest extent of the law. The Department of Health, all of our state agencies and every task force here and across our state are all working toward one goal -- to keep our communities safe. We will make that goal a reality for the people of Florida.”
According to a release from the governor’s office, the emergency action was taken as the result of an investigation by the Florida Department of Health, the Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force.
According to the release, more than 200 therapists appeared to have obtained their massage licenses through fraud, some paying $10,000 to $15,000 for fake college certificates and transcripts. The certificates and transcripts were submitted to the Department of Health as part of their license applications.
No information was immediately available on the therapists that did not have their licenses suspended.
The action comes as Attorney General Pam Bondi, who included a crackdown on human trafficking as one of her legislative priories earlier this year, announced plans to appear at a summit on the impact of trafficking
in Florida next week in Tallahassee.