A 7News investigation has revealed there is no way for clients to know if their massage therapist is under investigation for sexual assault by the state licensing board, until there is action taken against their license.
Labor Licensing and Regulation is in charge of the 4,800 massage therapists in South Carolina. The Massage and Bodyworks panel is in charge of everything from approving licenses to handing down discipline when needed. LLR investigates on average 30 complaints a year regarding massage therapists, some of which are sexual assault complaints.
A 7News investigation reviewed 8 cases where massage therapists had received a board disciplinary action. That investigation revealed that although the therapists had been under police investigation, it was never the law enforcement agency that alerted LLR about the allegations. Law Enforcement is not required to report to LLR any reports, investigations, or arrests.
7News took that LLR policy to the Julie Valentine Center, who helps sexual assault victims, even they were not aware that police were not mandated to report investigations or allegations.
David Wilson was working as a licensed massage therapist for a Greenville Massage Envy in 2009, when a client said he touched too close to her vaginal area. She filed a police report. It wasn’t until 2012 that LLR became aware of the allegation, as that’s when someone reported it to the licensing agency. It then took two more years for a LLR investigation to result in a temporary suspension of Wilson’s license. During that investigation, Wilson set up a massage business in his Seneca home that LLR knew nothing about, as they don’t track where licensed massage therapists are working. Wilson’s license was revoked in 2017, he is appealing. Wilson was never charged with a crime.
Wilson’s case wasn’t the only one we found where LLR wasn’t aware of police investigations or arrests.
A woman complained to Greer Police after she said she was sexually assaulted during her massage at Studio Rejuvenate by Eric Williams in July of 2013. Concerned citizens alerted LLR to the investigation and Williams was charged in September. A board order to temporarily suspend Williams’ license didn’t come down until a month after his arrest. Williams pled guilty to two counts of Assault and Battery 1st degree last month. Part of the conditions of his sentence was that he would relinquish his massage license.
Jesus Garcia was arrested in Anderson County in 2014, after two teen clients said that they were sexually assaulted during a massage. LLR was alerted to the arrest, because a news outlet asked questions. Garcia’s license was temporarily suspended right away, he pled guilty to the crimes and relinquished his license.
And in September of 2017, a client of Wintergreen Spa in Greenville stated that her massage therapist Timothy Lambrecht fondled her breasts and vagina, at a massage for her neck and shoulders area. The client filed a police report immediately and Lambrecht was arrested, posting bond the day after the report was filed. The client alerted LLR to the arrest a month later in October. Lambrecht’s license wasn’t temporarily suspended until two months after his arrest on November 22nd, 2017, allowing him to continue to massage clients after his arrest. Lambrecht has since relinquished his license in January of 2018.
The Massage and Bodywork board has recently formed a human trafficking task force. One of the first issues they want to tackle is establishment licensing, making it easier for the state agency to track massage businesses and who works there. But until that is done, it will continue to leave clients in the dark about whether their massage therapist is under investigation or not.
If you need to file a complaint regarding your massage therapist, click here.