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Massage Today
July 18, 2011

Suspect schools File Lawsuit, Then "Slapped" by the Court

There have been new developments in the California battle between human traffickers and the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), the state established certification agency for massage therapists.

The CAMTC is leading a pioneering effort to shut down schools that sell or provide fraudulent massage school transcripts. In a test case closely monitored by massage industry insiders, three massage schools that had their transcripts disallowed by CAMTC, turned around and sued the CAMTC for damages in Los Angeles Superior Court. The judge hearing the matter dismissed all three suits and fined the three schools $18,000.

The CAMTC has been in the forefront of the battle against human trafficking. In order to force women into the sex trade, human traffickers need a transcript showing that each woman received between 250 to 500 hours of education from an accredited massage school. The transcripts are then used to get a CAMTC certificate or police permit, which is required to work in illegitimate massage parlors.

The CAMTC has used a good deal of its limited resources in investigating schools to determine whether or not the transcripts being sold reflect the hours that were actually attended. In many cases, the CAMTC's undercover investigators posing as prostitutes were able to simply buy fraudulent transcripts from illegitimate schools.

law - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark To date, the CAMTC has taken action with respect 36 schools, refusing to accept their transcripts as proof that education actually was received. Here is a list of these schools:

  1. Acupuncture & Massage Institute of America
  2. America's Institute of Traditional Medicine
  3. American Heritage University of Southern California
  4. American International Vocational College
  5. American Purlington Institute
  6. Andrew Health Institute
  7. Cal Lion Institute
  8. California Professional College
  9. California Union University
  10. College of Physical Arts and Cosmetology
  11. Dynasty School (a.k.a. Dynasty Institute)
  12. East-West Institute of Hand Therapy
  13. Hahm Therapeutic Massage Institute
  14. International Qi Gong Research Association
  15. J.H.J. Education College
  16. Milpitas Electrolysis College
  17. Min Jian Hand Healing Institute (a.k.a. Perfect Day Spa)
  18. National Institute of Massage Therapy
  19. Orange Valley College, Inc.
  20. Oriental Medicine Institute of America
  21. Oriental Medical Institute in America
  22. Royal Irvin College
  23. San Diego Beauty College
  24. San Francisco College of Alternative Therapies
  25. School of Healing Touch
  26. Select Therapy Institute
  27. St. Luke University
  28. Sunflower Advanced Beauty Institute
  29. Sunset College of Healing Arts
  30. Tammy Beauty Academy
  31. UBC South El Monte
  32. United States Alternative College (a.k.a. Golden Acupressure Therapeutic Massage College)
  33. USA Pain Care College
  34. US Acupressure & Shiatsu School
  35. West Pacific Institute of Body Therapy
  36. Yunique Wellness Center

This battle took a new turn when three such schools, the Oriental Medicine Institute of America, Royal Irvin College and East-West Institute of Hand Therapy, simultaneously launched broad-based litigation against CAMTC, alleging that CAMTC's refusal to accept transcripts from these schools was not proper. All three schools were represented by attorney Peter Beirne.

Usually, legal battles such as these can stretch on for years and the cost alone can force investigative agencies to back down. In this case, the legal challenge to CAMTC was crushed very quickly with the innovative use of a whistle blower protection statute.

Michael Schroeder, an attorney and CAMTC Board Member, who was overseeing the litigation would not comment on the specifics of the investigations of these three schools.

He explained that California, like many states, has a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Policy) statute. This statute allows for anyone who is sued for exercising their First Amendment rights to file a SLAPP motion. When a SLAPP motion is filed, the person who filed the lawsuit is required to show, more likely than not, that they are going to win the litigation. If the suing party is unable to do so, the lawsuit is dismissed and the person who filed the lawsuit must pay the defendant's legal fees.

"In this case," said Schroeder, "CAMTC spoke about this important public matter by posting the names of the colleges on the website. These colleges sued. What happened in these suits would set a precedent for all of our efforts to protect the public and to protect women from exploitation.

"We had a great team on this matter. CAMTC Chair, Beverly May, our attorney, David Long, the insurance company, Axis Pro, all agreed on the strategy to employ the SLAPP statute at the onset of this case," Schroeder said.

The result of this aggressive and innovative strategy was that the three colleges' lawsuits were dismissed and the colleges were required to pay $18,000 in damages to CAMTC. Schroeder said, "We have now collected those sums. I think that this will have a significant effect on protecting the public from unscrupulous schools. Anything we can do to cut down on the number of false or fraudulent transcripts being sold will be a positive benefit."

While Schroeder would not speak specifically as to the actions of these three schools, Massage Today's review of the legal pleadings filed in the matter sheds a good deal of light into what occurred. In a declaration filed by Schroeder in the litigation, he pointed out that these schools had also been suspended by the National Certification Board for the Therapeutic Massage Body Work ("NCBTMB"). "NCBTMB suspended OMIA due to apparent use of fraudulent or fictitious information in order to give the appearance of legitimacy." The declaration goes on to state that the "CAMTC has become aware of problems with transcripts from certain massage schools being sold as a part of conduct in human trafficking."

Massage Today will continue to monitor events relating to the human trafficking battle occurring in California and other states.

 

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