New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal continues to crack down on massage therapists accused of inappropriate behavior while performing their jobs.

A Little Egg Harbor man is the 9th massage therapist to lose their license since last year over sexual misconduct in the work place by allegedly going over the line with a female client and touching her genitals during a massage.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal along with the Division of Consumer Affairs and the New Jersey Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy announced Thursday that 48-year old John R. Popper has had his license revoked after providing inappropriate and unwanted sexual contact with a woman during a massage session at a Hand and Stone spa in Somers Point.

Popper is permanently barred from working as a therapist in New Jersey as a result.

He was charged with criminal sexual contact which was later downgraded to harassment, which is a disorderly persons offense.

The Board determined that Popper's alleged conduct was, “so egregious and morally reprehensible, and so fundamentally at odds with anything that we would expect of a massage therapist that nothing short of permanent revocation would be sufficient to protect the public health, safety and welfare.”

In lieu of the nine massage therapists losing their licenses over misconduct, AG Grewal and the DCA said that they are evaluating how boards screen applicants for licenses and approach investigations of alleged misconduct and discipline and speaking with people who report and file complaints.

“No client or patient should ever have to fear for their personal safety while interacting with a licensed professional in this state,” Attorney General Grewal said in a written statement. “We are committed to ensuring that all our professional boards hold licensees to the same strict standards, and act swiftly to address allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse involving licensees. By revoking the licenses of massage therapists who prey on their clients, the Board is carrying out its duty to protect the public.”“When you see a massage therapist you put your trust in their hands,” Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said in a written statement. “Therapists who violate that trust can cause real and long-lasting damage to their victims and are a danger to our community. We are pleased that the Board, through its actions, is sending a message that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated.”Since July 2019, the Board has revoked the licenses of eight other massage therapists for sexual misconduct:

  • Asad Aliyev – License permanently revoked on July 25, 2020, for allegedly touching a female client inappropriately during a massage therapy session at a Hand and Stone spa in Allendale.
  • Aaron Coile – License revoked on January 28, 2020, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at the Sage Body and Mind spa in Voorhees.
  • Premkumar Perumal – License permanently revoked on October 22, 2019, for allegedly touching a female client inappropriately during a massage therapy session at a Hand and Stone Massage & Facial Spa in Clark. Perumal also allegedly inappropriately touched another female client while working at a Massage Envy in Hoboken.
  • Magdy Masek – License permanently revoked on October 22, 2019, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at a Massage Envy in Piscataway.
  • Frank Giordano – License permanently revoked on September 24, 2019, for allegedly touching two female clients inappropriately during massage therapy sessions at Alternative Bodyworks in Nutley.
  • Michael Egan – License permanently revoked on September 19, 2019, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at a Massage Envy in Closter.
  • Leonardo Drittij – License permanently revoked on September 18, 2019, for allegedly touching a female client inappropriately, engaging in a conversation of an intimate sexual nature with her, and failing to drape her properly during a massage therapy session at a Massage Envy.
  • Jonathan Higgins – License permanently revoked on July 16, 2019, for allegedly inappropriately touching a female client during a massage therapy session at a Hand and Stone Massage & Facial Spa in Brick. Higgins has been charged with sexual assault in connection with that alleged incident.

In addition to taking disciplinary action against licensees for alleged sexual contact with clients, the Board has adopted new rules to help prevent and detect sexual misconduct and abuse in the industry.

  • Require massage therapists to notify the Board of criminal, civil, administrative, and employment actions against them. Every licensee is required to notify the Board within 10 days of action against the licensee by criminal authorities, including an arrest, indictment, or conviction; within 10 days of the licensee being named in a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding involving misconduct relating to his or her practice; within 10 days of disciplinary action by any state licensing authority; and within 10 days of action against the licensee by an employer based on client care concerns.
  • Require massage therapists to report misconduct by others. Every licensee is required to report any incident or series of incidents that the licensee believes may violate the applicable statutes and rules, including violations by other massage therapists of the rules relating to sexual misconduct. Additional reporting requirements apply if a licensee possesses information indicating that another licensee or healthcare professional presents an imminent danger to the public or any individual.
  • Protect minors from abuse. For clients under the age of 18, licensees need to obtain written consent of the client’s parent or legal guardian before providing massage or bodywork services. For clients under the age of 16, the client’s parent or legal guardian would need to be in the room while the services are provided.

Attorney General Grewal said that clients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed massage therapist in an inappropriate manner can file a complaint online by visiting the State Division of Consumer Affairs website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504- 6200 to receive a paper complaint form by mail.

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email news tips to vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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