Are background checks enough to keep sexual predators from becoming massage therapists?

Posted at 7:09 PM, May 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 19:09:03-04

BONITA SPRINGS, Fla., -  A disturbing crime at a Bonita Springs massage parlor is raising questions about safety while seeking relaxation.

Marc DeTomaso, a masseuse at Massage Luxe Spa, is accused of performing unwanted sex acts on a female client.

The incident happened on Super Bowl Sunday but DeTomaso was just arrested this week. Deputies say an hour into the Swedish massage, DeTomaso put his hands inside his female client's underwear, then performed a sex act on her.

Other Southwest Florida massage therapists call the allegations disturbing, especially since getting licensed as a therapist in Florida isn't easy.

"It's pretty particular as far as guidelines and background checks. We're right up there with physical therapists, registered nurses. We're all in the same group," said Mindy Coward, an independent licensed massage therapist in Southwest Florida.

Since 2014, the state is requiring all massage therapists to go through a background check and fingerprinting through the FBI before receiving a license. It's a move the Department of Health says is meant to weed out those with a criminal past.

"Somebody that doesn't adhere to a guideline or a psychological adequacy to be in the field, they may not need to have that type of contact with somebody who could be in that vulnerable state," Coward said.

DeTomaso was arrested in 2007 for drug possession in Collier County, a charge that didn't disqualify him from being a therapist.

"Read your reviews, go online, ask around. There's all sorts of accountability to be had throughout word of mouth and online," Coward said.
In an email statement, a Department of Health spokesperson said, "The department takes any accusation of sexual misconduct very seriously. Anyone with knowledge of a provider acting inappropriately should report that to the department. "