According to a number of sources, state authorities have announced the suspension of more than 80 massage therapists’ licenses, who appear to have fraudulently obtained their licenses with the help of an employee with the Florida College of Natural Health. On September 19, 2012, 81 emergency suspension orders (ESOs) were signed, suspending the licenses of massage therapists who are part of ongoing investigations.
Investigation Found More Than 200 Therapists Obtained Their Licenses Fraudulently.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, earlier this year the Florida Department of Health (DOH), Clearwater Human Trafficking Task Force and the South Florida Human Trafficking Task Force began an investigation into several massage therapy businesses. The investigation turned up more than 200 massage therapists who appeared to have obtained their massage therapy licenses by fraud.
Florida Massage School Employee Helped Obtain the Fraudulent Licenses.
It is believed the 200 people did not enroll in massage therapy school, but received transcripts from the Florida College of Natural Health showing they completed training. The Tampa Bay Times article states that these people allegedly paid between $10,000 and $15,000 to an individual who worked at a Florida massage school in exchange for transcripts.
The transcripts were then used to get massage licenses from the DOH.
The governor has now ordered a seven-day review of massage schools to ensure they are complying with licensure requirements and regulations. Authorities believe more suspensions will likely be issued.
Massage Therapist Suspensions Thought to Be Tied to Human Trafficking.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, in a news conference authorities said the emergency suspension orders were, in part, an effort to target Florida’s human trafficking problem. Authorities said massage parlors are a typical place for finding victims of human trafficking.
Authorities also said they do not know if these 81 fake massage therapists are victims of human trafficking. It is clear, however, they are not operating legally.
Reference Articles for Licensed Massage Therapists.
On our website we provide helpful information for licensed massage therapists. To read about the consequences of having your massage therapy license revoked (or relinquishing it after a notice of an investigation), click here. To see the 25 biggest mistakes made by massage therapists after being notified of a DOH complaint, click here. You can also click here to read our advice for preparing for an informal hearing before the Florida Board of Massage Therapy.
Routine Legal Advice Given to Massage Therapists.
We routinely advise massage therapists and all other licensed health professionals with whom we have a legal consultation:
1. Do NOT speak with any Department of Health (DOH) investigator until you have talked to an experienced health law attorney.
2. Do not make any written statement or respond to any letters from the DOH until you have talked to an experienced health attorney.
3. Read everything you receive and be sure to file election of rights (EOR) statements by the deadline, but only after consulting with an experienced health lawyer.
4. You should not attempt to defend yourself without an attorney.
5. Attempting to talk your way out of the situation or explain your side of it will only hurt you.
6. Many types of massage therapist insurance will actually pay for an attorney to defend you in this type of situation.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Investigations of Massage Therapists.
The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to massage therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Department of Health. “Governor Rick Scott Joins Law Enforcement and Anti-Human Trafficking Groups to Suspend Licenses of 81 Massage Therapists.” DOH News Room. (September 19, 2012). From: http://newsroom.doh.state.fl.us/wp-content/uploads/newsroom/2011/08/91912-EOGMassage-Therapy-Licenses.pdf
Velde, Jessica. “Florida Suspends 81 Massage Therapists’ Licenses.” Tampa Bay Times. (September 19, 2012). From: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/florida-suspends-81-massage-therapists-licenses/1252355#
Turner, Jim. “Florida Suspends 81 Massage Therapists in Human Trafficking Probe.” Sunshine State News. (September 19, 2012). From: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/blog/florida-suspends-81-massage-therapists-human-trafficking-probe
About the Authors: Joanne Kenna, J.D., R.N., is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.