Ex-state employee is indicted

Former massage parlor investigator charged with extortion

April 25, 2006|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

A former state investigator of the massage parlor industry has been charged with extortion, according to a two-count federal indictment unsealed yesterday.

Paul E. Murphy, 55, of Bel Air was arrested by the FBI on Friday. Later that day, Murphy made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. No date for his arraignment has been set, said his attorney, Gerald C. Ruter.

The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office declined to provide details about the extortion allegations lodged against Murphy.

Murphy served as a Baltimore City police officer before he started working for the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners in 2001, according to the board's executive director, James Vallone. Murphy resigned from the board in October.

According to the indictment, Murphy sent e-mails back and forth from Baltimore to San Carlos, Calif., in 2004 and 2005, engaging in "an unlawful activity," described in the indictment as "extortion by a state employee."

The FBI interviewed Murphy on June 25, 2005, and asked whether he had had sexual relations with a specific woman, the indictment said. According to the indictment, Murphy replied: "Did you see her picture? No sex. No."

The second count of the indictment accuses Murphy of lying to federal agents about the nature of the relationship. Court papers do not reveal the identity of the woman involved, but a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said she is connected to the massage industry.

If convicted, Murphy could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each charge.

Ruter, the defense attorney, said he was surprised by the indictment. "I would just say the allegations are really antithetical to the Paul Murphy I know," he said, adding that he and Murphy had worked together before.

Vallone said there are about 2,500 certificated massage therapists - who can work in health care settings such as hospitals - and 200 registered massage practitioners. The board now has two investigators who check out about 80 complaints a year.

"We did have some substantial problems," Vallone said, referring to the 55 illegal massage parlors the board closed in the past decade.

Two years ago, Howard County police and federal immigrations officers raided Oriental Spa massage parlor in Elkridge. The owner, Sung Yul "Peter" Kim, was accused of offering $300,000 to the police, who were posing as corrupt officers, to buy 20 fake green cards for his female employees. The business, the affidavits said, was a front for illegal sexual services.

The investigation began when Murphy, who was then the state's lone inspector for massage parlors, reported to the state prosecutor that Kim tried to bribe him.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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