Massage therapists in Houston operating outside laws - KPRC Click2Houston

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    HOUSTON - Channel 2 investigates has found no shortage of Houston massage therapists operating outside the law.

    We also found massage businesses that are licensed, but have unlicensed "employees" working inside.

    One massage business Channel 2 Investigates visited in Friendswood advertises walk-in service, but when we walked in, we saw important looking certificates on the wall, but there were no licensed massage therapists around.

    Joel Eisenbaum: Are you state licensed as a massage therapist?

    Employee: Yeah. No, I’m not.

    Why is it important that somebody has a license?

    "You can do people harm through any medical intervention if you don't know what you're doing," said David Lauterstein with Lauterstein-Conway massage school.

    Licensing also mandates massage therapists get a background check, but we discovered a hitch in that system.

    There are licensed individuals that have criminal convictions that are in the program and shouldn't be in the program.

    Brian Francis is the executive director of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and he's the new boss of massage licensing.

    "Remember, we've only had the program for less than a year so these individuals have been licensed for a while," Francis said.

    Until late last year, the state's massage industry was regulated by Texas Health and Human Services.

    Under Texas Health and Human services, according to TDLR, some people convicted of violent and or sexual crimes continued to hold a massage license.

    Eisenbaum asked," One or two out of 100?"

    Francis said, "It could be, absolutely."

    With 31,913 licensed massage therapists in Texas, 2 percent would be 638 Texans who have a massage license but shouldn't.

    "When they renew, we're getting those individuals," Francis said.

    There are two routine events when TDLR would learn whether someone has been convicted of a violent or sexual offense that would keep them from being a licensed massage therapist:

    1. When they apply for an original license, or
    2. When they apply to renew their license.

    TDLR also does extensive outreach with law enforcement.

    TDLR took over the massage therapy program in November 2017. A representative from TDLR said, "We are aware that the potential criminal history of massage therapists is an issue. It would be helpful to have authority to require fingerprint-based criminal background checks and rap-back notifications from law enforcement when a massage therapy applicant or licensee has been convicted. We have listed this as a strategic initiative in our 2019-2023 strategic plan."

    But the biggest threat may come from the mobile massage space, which means people who come into your home.

    In and around Houston, we found plenty who advertise as massage therapists, but they don't have a license.

    In the case of 36-year-old Fernando Octaviani, you'd probably want to know about his criminal record before he lays hands on you.



    KPRC - Fernando Octaviani DPS History (PDF)
    KPRC - Fernando Octaviani DPS History (Text)


    In 2016, Octaviani was convicted of indecent exposure after an incident involving someone else's child inside their home.

    "If they're not on our page as a licensed individual, walk away," Francis said.

    There are two simple ways to protect yourself:

    1. Every licensed massage therapist is required to deliver the TDLR consultation form before touching you. Make sure you get it and read it.
    2. Check the website for licensure of businesses and individuals.

    The Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation adopted changes to TDLR’s Conviction Guidelines to include the Massage Therapy program.

    View the updated guidelines below.



    KPRC - Guidelines for License Applicants With Criminal Convictions (PDF)
    KPRC - Guidelines for License Applicants With Criminal Convictions (Text)


    A Houston mobile massage therapist was recently arrested and accused of traveling with bundles of black tar heroin in a rental car.

    On Oct. 30, 2018, South Texas Specialized Crimes and Narcotics Task Force agents pulled over Marlo Denise Young on U.S. Highway 77 in Kleberg County.

    Agents said they discovered 33 small bundles of suspected black tar heroin weighing 10 pounds concealed inside the car battery. Young was arrested and booked at the Coastal Bend Detention Center pending the filing of a federal criminal complaint for possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.

    They also seized a massage table and business cards for "Melt and Relax" mobile massage therapy inside the car.

    Melt and Relax has a 4.6 out of 5 star rating on Google and 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp.

    We checked with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation; despite the exceptional reviews, according to TDLR, Young is not a licensed massage therapist.

    According to the Department of Public Safety, Young has a history of arrests.

    Tonight at 10 on KPRC Channel 2, Joel Eisenbaum uncovers a convicted sex offender and other untrained imposters skipping licensing and operating businesses that come to you.

    Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.

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