PAWTUCKET â€” Councilor-at-large Albert Vitali Jr. responded on Friday to questions that were raised by a local TV station about his involvement in an Armistice Boulevard spa that is alleged to have been offering illicit sexual acts to customers along with massages.
On Thursday, WPRI TV aired a report of a month's long undercover investigation into a business at 506 Armistice Blvd. that was called the Daily Spa. The building is in a strip of storefront businesses that Vitali said he manages and which is owned by his mother. According to official records, the entire property is owned by â€śArmistice Holdings, LLC, and Vitali's mother is listed as the president of the company.
The â€śTarget 12 Investiga-tionâ€ť that aired alleged that, during an undercover investigation, a female spa worker gave an Eyewitness News producer a 40 minute massage, and then propositioned him using what was described as an â€śobscene hand gestureâ€ť to depict a sex act and holding up four fingers, allegedly to symbolize a price of $40, according to the report.
The broadcast alleged that over a series of several days of monitoring, numerous men would arrive at the spa, ring a buzzer, and be allowed in to a business with a sign outside that advertised â€śbody work, skin care and waxing.â€ť The report said that about a week after interviewing Vitali, the storefront that had housed the Daily Spa was found to be empty and all of the signage had been removed.
In the broadcast, a reporter and cameraman confronted Vitali at Pawtucket City Hall about who actually owns the spa, told him what the undercover investigation allegedly had revealed and questioned the two-term councilor about whether or not he had any knowledge of any illegal activity going on. Vitali replied during the broadcast that it was his mother who actually owned the property, and said he just managed it and collected rent. He denied any knowledge of alleged illicit activity taking place at the location.
When asked about the allegations, Vitali told The Times that in his capacity as working for a property management company, he oversees some 300 tenants. â€śAnd I don't monitor the day-to-day comings and goings of all of the tenantsâ€”that would be physically impossible,â€ť he stated.
â€śBut,â€ť Vitali said, â€śIf anything is brought to our attention of possibly unwanted activities, as far as any of our properties go, either residential or commercial, I promise the issue would be dealt with quickly and with a heavy hand.â€ť
Vitali added that if he was alerted to anything going on illegally in any of the properties, â€śI would report it to the proper authorities immediately. That was the practice of my dad before me and of my mother who owns this property. We wouldn't tolerate it,â€ť Vitali said.
Vitali added that the entire matter was â€śan unfortunate situation,â€ť and one that he wished had been brought to his attention sooner. â€śBut my mother took action on it immediately,â€ť he added.
Of being singled out for the undercover investigation Vitali suggested it was a matter of politics. He said, â€śI have a feeling that there is more than one establishment in the city that does massage, so, I'm curious if this investigation is because I'm a councilor. There may be a little political undertone to this whole thing, and that will eventually come out,â€ť Vitali stated.
According to Police Major Arthur Martins, there had been some reports about suspicious activities at that property in the past. However, he said this was before the state laws had changed regarding indoor prostitution, so there was nothing that police could do about it at the time.
Martins noted that there are three other businesses in the city, on East Street, Benefit Street and Pleasant Street, that are advertised as adult â€śspas.â€ť He said that while police are aware of their presence, they have not received any complaints or found evidence â€śto establish sufficient probable causeâ€ť to support any charges of illegal activity.
Mayor Donald Grebien, who said he was interviewed by reporters as part of the Target 12 investigation, said on Friday that while there had been four spa businesses in the city that the police department had been looking at, â€śthey hadn't been able to prove that any of them had more than just a massage parlor happening there.â€ť
Grebien added that, â€śregardless of who the owner is, they would have been prosecuted to the fullest extent as long as they (the police) had the proof.â€ť
To that end, Grebien said he had asked the TV station to have the producer involved in the undercover investigation to make a formal complaint so police could investigate it further for possible prosecution. However, he said that to date, no one has come forward to do this. â€śAt this point, these are just allegations,â€ť he added.