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How a Virginia massage therapist kept license after sex crime conviction

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 18:08:45-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The CBS 6 Problem Solvers continuing to ask questions about the chain of events that allowed a massage therapist, convicted of a sex crime in Chesterfield County, to keep his license and get hired at a day spa in Williamsburg where he victimized five other women.

Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit, who has been investigating the story since 2020, dug deeper into how the state tried to protect massage clients from predators.

The Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) regulates healthcare practitioners in the commonwealth, which includes massage therapists.

Within the DHP, there are 13 different licensing boards. One of those boards is the Board of Nursing. The Board of Nursing regulates massage therapists in Virginia.

If someone is sexually assaulted while getting a massage, they can file a complaint with DHP.

That complaint will be assigned to a DHP investigator who will conduct a full investigation.

This investigation is separate from an investigation by law enforcement. The DHP is not required to tell the police about the complaint.

DHP said cases are typically investigated within three months.

Once the department's investigation is completed it is sent to the Board of Nursing.

At that point, either a current or former member of the board, a DHP staff member, or someone else will make a recommendation about disciplinary action to the board, and the board will decide to accept or reject it.

The board may also hold a formal hearing and take disciplinary action.

There are a couple of exceptions to this process.

In the first, the board can immediately pull a massage therapist's license if they have been convicted of a felony. That does not apply to misdemeanors.

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Shawn Lamonte Robinson

Shawn Robinson, the massage therapist at the center of a recent CBS 6 Problem Solvers investigation, was convicted in July 2020 of misdemeanor sexual battery, so this mandatory suspension did not apply.

In the second exception, the board can expedite investigations for high priority cases where the licensee poses a substantial threat to the public, and summarily suspend a license without a hearing.

This did not happen in the Robinson case.

Unfortunately, we do not know when a complaint was first filed with the board about Robinson, and we also do not know when the board found out he had been convicted of sexual battery.

A DHP spokesperson said this is protected information that they cannot release. She added law enforcement, prosecutors, and the court system were not required to tell the board when a licensee is convicted of a sex crime on the job.