Fla. lawmaker: sex offenders shouldn't have massage licenses - WNEM TV 5

Fla. lawmaker: sex offenders shouldn't have massage licenses

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State Senator Jack Latvala State Senator Jack Latvala
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - State Senator Jack Latvala says he wants to tighten state regulation of licensed massage therapists to keep registered sex offenders out of the profession.

Latvala's call for action comes in response to an 8 On Your Side investigation that revealed eight registered sex offenders who had active licenses to practice massage therapy in spite of their criminal records.

Related story:  Sex offenses no barrier to state massage therapist licenses

The senator said the Florida Department of Health told him the agency doesn't have the authority to perform criminal background checks nor can it give blanket denials to registered sex offenders who apply for massage licenses.

"I think these are loopholes I need to fix and that’s why I decided to file a bill on this issue," Latvala said.

The Department of Health tells 8 On Your Side it can take emergency action to suspend or revoke massage licenses, but News Channel 8's investigation found the agency is slow to act, if it acts at all.

Related story:  State finally revokes massage license of sex offender

In one case, a massage therapist arrested by Pinellas Sheriff's detectives in December for sexually battering a client during therapy still has a license in good standing. So does another sex offender whose probation for child pornography prohibits him from being alone with his own daughter.

A third sex offender, Michael McIntosh, who is serving probation for molesting a woman during a massage therapy session in Tampa, voluntarily gave up his license five months after his conviction and shortly after 8 On Your Side started asking questions about his case.

Latvala said he is enlisting the help of State Representative Carl Zimmerman to co-sponsor legislative reform in the State House. Zimmerman first raised questions about the problem when McIntosh's sexual assault victim went to him for help last fall.

Latvala said State Representative Kathleen Peters may also co-sponsor legislation and he is also counting on the Department of Health to take a lead role in reforming it's own regulation of massage therapists.

"They're going to work with us writing the bill so then we can get that passed and there won’t be any excuse for them not to act," said Latvala.

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