A California massage therapist with numerous complaints of misconduct lodged via the California Massage Therapy Council finally got his license suspended two years after an Asian American customer filed her complaint against him.
In 2015, Soo Young Kim of Greenbrae filed a complaint against massage therapist Joseph Sanchez at the CAMTC for inappropriate touching after her police report with the Central Marin Police Department did not get anywhere.
“He was rubbing his crotch on the top of my head, and I’m scooting down to avoid this from happening,” Kim told NBC Bay Area. “I [was] fearful and just thinking how am I going to get out of this situation?”
CAMTC, a nonprofit corporation, certifies a massage therapist after he or she graduates from an approved school, and passes a criminal background check. Such certification is required by most cities in California.
NBC Bay Area’s own investigation uncovered that numerous massage therapists, who have been similarly hit with complaints, some of whom were arrested, are still allowed to practice their profession.
Sanchez himself was able to continue working as a massage therapist despite being fired from two previous jobs in San Francisco and Sausalito due to similar complaints.
The police officer, who investigated Kim’s complaint by making a few phone calls to the massage therapist and the spa owner, closed the case after the two issued their denial. The entire incident has been dubbed as a mere “misunderstanding”, noting that Kim had “no proof” that any crime was committed, based on the police report.
Kim then filed a suit against Sanchez and the spa owner of Elements Massage in Bon Air Center in Greenbrae, with allegations of a “painful, inappropriate massage” and “sexual touching” by the therapist.
“Sanchez rubbed his genitals on [her] head and foot through his pants,” and “repeatedly attempted to push her legs apart,” Kim said in the charges.
The lawsuit further unearthed numerous complaints filed against the masseur, including one from an Army paratrooper who claimed Sanchez’s massage felt like he was being “tortured by the CIA.”
Kim then discovered that Sanchez had posted multiple photos of his clients who were topless, wearing only thong underwear on his social media accounts. One particular photo had the caption, “The most extreme therapist in the country.”
In the complaint she filed to the CAMTC, Kim included the half-naked photos of the clients and her statement to the police.
The council, which receives over 200 complaints per year, has the authority to deny, suspend or revoke a certification if any wrongdoing is found against a therapist. It handles a variety of complaints ranging from tardiness to sexual assault.
However, NBC’s investigation has found that while CAMTC’s records indicate a growing trend in sexual assault cases since 2010, the council has chosen to keep details about them from the public.
Worse, many of those who were arrested for sex crimes or other work-related charges still hold an active certification, and are technically employable in the state.
After NBC Bay Area’s report, another previous client of Sanchez emerged, stating she did not know Sanchez had posted her photos online. The woman, who had asked not to be identified, then filed a new complaint against Sanchez with CAMTC. This time, the council finally suspended the license of the alleged abuser.
The development came over two years after Soo Young lodged her complaint and submitted the same photos to CAMTC.
In an interview in June, Sanchez said the accusations against him were “completely false”, adding that he specializes in sports-therapy massage, and that he checked with Kim multiple times to determine her discomfort level.
“There’s no justice in the civil system,” Sanchez told Marin Independent Journal.
Sanchez, who has been massaging for 21 years, added, “I do good work. I don’t do work like she’s claiming. I basically feel a lynch mob was out to get me.”
Kim has since settled her lawsuit with Sanchez and the proprietor of the massage studio, neither of whom admitted liability.