By Jill Harmacinski
---- — LAWRENCE — In June 2011, when Lori Barron pleaded guilty to prostitution-related charges in Salem, N.H., she was barred from opening another massage parlor in Salem, N.H. for 10 years.
But less than two years later, Barron had moved her alleged brothel 7 miles away over the Massachusetts line to Lawrence. This week, the married mother was charged again with running a house of prostitution out of her massage business “The Day Spa for Gentlemen” at 7B Broadway.
“Just the right amount of wrong to be right,” proclaims Barron’s website for the Lawrence spa. “Warm, sophisticated and seductress young ladies that will make you feel like you’ve never felt before. We are truly unique tantric goddesses with a passion to please your every need.”
Barron, 50, allegedly videotaped the young seductresses working for her performing sex acts on customers — reportedly area police officers, firefighters, lawyers, teachers, a doctor, and court workers. Detectives are still analyzing computers, cell phones and written records to compile a detailed client list.
The mother of two college-age daughters is accused of using the footage to blackmail her employees, some single mothers, if they stepped out of line or tried to quit. Police said she had hundreds of customers at the spa, which she described on her website as “luxury offices” that are “conveniently situated near all major highways in northern Massachusetts.” The spa advertised “plenty of secure free parking.”
“Our professional staff of talented and highly skilled relaxologists have all mastered the opulent technique of erotic touch. We look forward to talking, laughing, and experiencing a tantalizing and passionate time together that will be all our own,” the site reads. “You deserve to be pampered and experience a rendezvous you will never forget… you need an escape…”
Barron’s now-shuttered spa also offered a “private sailing vessel” and “luxury yacht” leaving from Boston Harbor for special functions, according to the website. Clients were asked to refrain from using vulgar or explicit language around the spa workers, who are “very skilled at discerning the wants and needs of our clients.”
“We do not promote or condone illegal activities of any kind,” according to the spa Web site. On a first visit, spa customers were required to provide proof of identification for “health, safety and welfare objectives.”
But Barron, 50, is now facing seven felony counts, including human trafficking, a law which went into effect in February 2012. The law allows authorities to charge someone who subjects, entices, harbors, transports or delivers another “with the intent that the person engage in sexually explicit performance or sexual conduct.”
A conviction carries a state prison sentence between five to 20 years. But if a victim under 18 is involved, life in prison can be imposed. A person faces a $25,000 fine for a human trafficking conviction while a business entity may be fined up to $1 million, according to the law.
Prosecutors charged Barron with human trafficking because she allegedly lured young women to work at the spa, first as receptionists and then quickly “promoting” them and requiring them to work in massage rooms where clients could pay extra for sexual services. She allegedly assaulted the young women if they didn’t perform sex acts.
“She hired these girls as receptionists off Craigslist and then lured them into sexual activity with more and more money,” police Chief John Romero said.
Barron allegedly promised one worker, who was initially hired as a receptionist on Aug. 2, 2012, she could make $3,000 per week if she worked hard at the spa. The worker said “she was lured by the amount of money she could make,” according to a police report.
Another woman told police Barron bought her lingerie and “forced her hands onto a male’s penis while giving a full body massage.” The woman “said she did not want to perform certain sex acts and Barron would become angry and even shove her.” But the worker said Barron knew she needed the money and “her intimidation was working,” according to a police report.
On March 13, Barron allegedly assaulted a woman working for her, after the woman wouldn’t allow a client to spank her, and tipping police off to illegal activity at the Lawrence spa.
After the male customer left angry, Barron allegedly yelled at the woman, saying “You just cost me money.” Barron is accused of pushing the woman into a room, where the two struggled and Barron “got the best of her by pulling her to the ground by her hair and pulling the victim by the hair down two flights of stairs.”
Clumps of the worker’s hair were pulled out during the assault and her finger was cut. Barron was arrested and charged with assault and battery, according to a police report.
In Salem, N.H., where Barron ran her former sex spa, she apparently used the same tactics on women who worked there. According to court records, Barron told a worker at the former ETEA Weight Loss Spa at 282 Main St. that “if she wanted to make some real money, she should ‘go back there and start earning money by giving massages and happy endings.’”
Another worker told police she was hired specifically “to do Swedish massages with happy endings,” according to court papers.
In Salem and in Lawrence, Barron solicited clients through the website Backpage.com, where a daily special was offered along with discount prices, according to court records.
In Salem, Barron was charged on May 16, 2011, with two counts of prostitution, obscene matter and simple assault. Less than a month later, she pleaded guilty to obscene matter and simple assault. The two prostitution charges were not prosecuted.
She was sentenced to a year in jail, suspended for 12 months with good behavior. She agreed to “relinquish her massage therapist’s license and shall not open or manage a massage therapists business in Salem, N.H. for 10 years,” according to court papers. She was also fined $310, which was immediately paid.
Tuesday, at her Lawrence District Court arraignment, Barron entered a plea of not guilty to human trafficking, two counts of prostitution, extortion, photographing an unsuspecting nude person, unlawful wiretapping and intimidating a witness. Her defense attorney Tony Ortiz said the allegations were fueled by disgruntled employees. Bail was set at $30,000, which was posted by bank check shortly after the arraignment.
A spa worker told Lawrence detectives Barron “brings home the money nightly from the spa and hides it at her house in a safe.” Barron, the worker said, “has millions of dollars hidden in suitcases.”
Barron and her husband of 20 years, Steve, live in Salem, N.H., at 20 Riversedge Drive, a quiet, circular street off Lawrence Road — not far from the Salem police station. The four-bedroom, 1,904-square-foot home is valued at roughly $429,000. No one answered the door at the brick-front home, with a carefully manicured lawn and shrubs.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.