4 Investigates: A ‘missed opportunity’ to make massage businesses more safe

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two women have been murdered during separate, apparent robberies at massage businesses this year.

In January, two men ambushed Sihui Fang inside the Wonderful Massage near Menaul and San Pedro.

Then, in February, another woman was killed at the Canna Spa and Massage near Coors and Fortuna. Surveillance video inside the business shows a robber gathering items from inside an office, presumably after he killed her. APD has not released her name yet because they have not been able to track down her family in China.

In 2020, the New Mexico Legislature considered a bill that was designed to make massage businesses safer for customers and employees.

"I thought this industry needs support, it needs sunlight and it needs safety at the forefront," New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said. "I thought not passing that bill was a real missed opportunity before."

Balderas is referencing House Bill 155. It would have allowed state inspectors from the Regulation and Licensing Department to go inside massage businesses. Right now, the state can inspect nail, hair and tattoo shops – but not massage businesses.

Chris Ramirez: You do think, had the state back in 2020, passed HB155, it would have created additional safety mechanisms for massage businesses in Albuquerque and statewide?
Hector Balderas: Absolutely, what it allows RLD to do is at least start a conversation. What are the appropriate safety standards? What are the appropriate hours? What are the appropriate levels of responsibility that these businesses owe not only to their customers but also to their employees and to their families?

HB 155 cleared one committee, but according to the bill’s sponsor – she pulled the bill after hundreds of massage therapists complained the bill went too far. Some massage therapists travel to homes or work in hospital settings and they felt the inspections were impractical. The bill died, as did the idea of inspecting curbside massage businesses.

"This is a real wake-up call in our community," Balderas said.