ORLANDO, Fla. — When Florida authorities shut down 10 massage spas last month and arrested hundreds of men for buying sex, they broke a longstanding pattern.

In the past, owners had mostly faced minor charges and punishment, patrons almost never were arrested, and signs of human trafficking often didn’t lead to investigations.

An Associated Press review of state records shows that while law enforcement in Florida has investigated hundreds of individual massage parlors for illegal sexual activity, it was usually low-level massage therapists who were arrested.

Owners were often exempted or charged with misdemeanors resulting in fines and probation. Johns usually were not charged at all.

In stark contrast, the investigation announced last month focused heavily on the possibility of widespread human trafficking, and hundreds of johns were arrested.


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