A Community Problem

A Case Study of the Impact of Illicit Massage Businesses in Fairfax County, Virginia.

IMB website. jpg
IMB website. jpg

IMB Report

A Case Study of the Impact of Illicit Massage Businesses in Fairfax County, Virginia.



85 IMBs were identified from an online source for Fairfax County in February 2019. Each of these IMBs that were listed as open, had at least one review indicating a sexual service had been purchased.



It is conservatively estimated that 558 customers each day are visiting the 85 IMBs in Fairfax County. This equates to more than 203.6K customer visits each year.



A conservative estimate is that $23.6 million of taxable revenue is being generated each year at IMBs in Fairfax County.


Victim Workers

Conservatively, some 170 women every day are being exploited in IMBs in Fairfax County. Each worker will have approximately 1,200 customer visits each year.

The Study

Illicit Massage Businesses (IMBs) impact the community in a variety of ways. In 2019, Reset180 conducted a study to access the impact of the 85 IMBs in Fairfax County, VA. The goals of the study were to capture numbers for demand and revenue, determine demographics of customers and workers, determine how close these places are to public schools, and how they impacted legitimate massage businesses. Video footage was captured at 18 locations and was used to calculate demand and revenue and to determine demographics.

IMBs in Fairfax County

Dark grey=Fairfax County | Black=IMBs listed as online | Red=IMBs observed

Observed Demographics of People Entering/Exiting IMBs

In spring 2019, 125 customers and 44 providers were observed entering and/or exiting one of 18 IMBs with in a 24-hour period. All customers were male. All observed providers were female and Asian. Four providers were believed to live onsite and ethnicity could not be determined.





On average customers stayed 49.2 minutes and providers stayed 12.1 hours. The busiest arrival time was between 1-3 pm for customers and 9-10 am for providers.

Average Time and Busiest Arrival Times

When the time of entry was broken down into 30-minute increments for Fairfax County, the majority of the customers appeared to arrive between 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm as opposed to during lunch as seen in other areas. Mornings showed a steady increase in customers, but afternoons had a consistent pattern of sharp increases and decreases. Each sharp increase occurred 60 or 90 minutes after the last increase. The arrival times of the providers showed an expected pattern, with a large influx in the morning and a steady decrease over time.

Time of Entry in 30 Minute Increments

Schools and Students Near an IMB

In Fairfax County, six IMBs are located within 1,000 feet of a public school. There are 29 IMBs within 1,500 feet of a public school. This count does not include IMBs that are near preschools, private schools, or places of worship. There are four schools and 5,160 kids within 1,000 feet of an IMB. In total, some 47,050 students go to school within a mile of an IMB.

Number of Students within a Mile of an IMB

What are Illicit Massages Businesses (IMBs)?

Establishments with registered business names that operate under the guise of providing massage, wellness, and/or spa services while in fact deriving some clientele and revenue through the provision of commercial sex acts. IMBs operate in violation of state and federal laws, which may include criminal statutes regarding human trafficking (including sex trafficking and labor trafficking), debt bondage, and organized criminal activities such as money laundering, visa and immigration fraud, smuggling, and/or tax evasion. The term illicit massage business does not encompass legitimate, therapeutic massage businesses.

Did you know?

  • There are approximately over 11,000 IMBs across the U.S.
  • In the U.S., it is estimated that IMBs generate $4.3 billion/year.
  • In the U.S., it is estimated that there are 38,500 victim/workers at any given time.
  • IMBs masquerade as legitimate businesses.
  • They are hidden in plain sight and often can be found near other¬†legitimate places such as other health professions, schools, and places of worship.
  • IMBs advertise their services on online review sites.
  • The most popular IMB review site receives 325,000 unique visitors per month.
  • The customers are mostly men.
  • The victims (workers) are women mostly from East Asian countries such as China, South Korea, and Thailand.
  • Victim workers often do not identify as victims due to barriers such as immigration status, language, and culture.

Indicators of an IMB

  • Prices advertised are significantly lower than other massage therapy businesses.
  • Women may appear to live onsite.
  • Women work, long excessive hours.
  • Business serves primarily or only male clientele.
  • Windows are covered or darkened.
  • The front door is locked.
  • A doorbell or buzzer to get in.
  • The location has security cameras.

The Full Report: A Case Study of the Impact of Illicit Massage Businesses in Fairfax County

Media Coverage and Reset180 Press Release

You Can Stop Exploitation!

  1. Discuss property ownership with authorities: find out who owns properties leased to illicit massage businesses (IMBs) in your community. If a storefront has the signs of being an IMB, ask property owners to conduct basic due diligence on their tenants.
  2. Inform your local leaders about what is happening in our neighborhoods and demand change! Call your elected officials. Let them know that bringing freedom to exploited women matters to you.
  3. Share accurate, compelling information about the issue with your community to raise awareness and create lasting change. Host an awareness event in your community. Reset180 will provide the speaker.
    Report suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (888.3737.888) and to your local police. See the section Report a Tip for a list of phone numbers.
  4. Understand the complex circumstances facing women exploited in these businesses, so you can be an effective advocate for survivors who need help. It is critical to advocate for sustained local resources necessary to bring lasting freedom and support to victim workers.
  5. Practice safety for both the workers and yourself when looking into a suspected illicit massage business. Let authorities handle the onsite investigations; intervening or confronting owners on your own can put victim workers at risk.
  6. Thank and support law enforcement officers, service providers, and public officials when they take the time to focus on the issue. Publicly affirm good work and advocate for more resources.

Report a Tip

National Human Trafficking Hotline

Alexandria Police Report Line:—————(703) 746-4444

Arlington County Police Report Line:——-(703) 558-2222

Dumfries Police Report Line:—————–(703) 792-6500

Fairfax City Police Report Line:————–(703) 385-7924

Fairfax County Police Report Line

Fauquier County Police Report Line:——–(540) 347-3300

Loudoun County Police Report Line:——–(703) 777-1021

Manassas City Police Report Line:———-(703) 257-8000

Manassas Park Police Report Line:———(703) 361-1136

Prince William County Police Report Line: (703) 792-6500

Town of Vienna Police Report Line:———-(703) 255-6366

Other Resources